June 11, 1998
TICKS ABUNDANT THIS YEAR
SPRINGFIELD, ILL. The Illinois Department of Public Health is
receiving an increased number of reports from the public about this year's
large tick population.
"Tick bites can transmit a number of diseases," warns Dr. John R.
Lumpkin, state public health director. "As individuals begin to engage in
more outdoor activities, they need to be aware of measures they can take to
avoid tick bites."
Ticks live in and near wooded areas, tall grass and brush and, if infected,
can spread various diseases, including ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, Rocky
Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. The ticks, often no bigger than a pin
head, become active and can spread disease any time of the year when the
temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or more at ground level. Peak months for
tickborne diseases are June and July.
Dr. Lumpkin said the best way to protect yourself against tickborne
illnesses is to avoid tick bites. He suggests the following precautions:
- Check your clothing often for ticks climbing toward open skin. Wear white
or light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants so the tiny ticks are
easier to see.
- Tuck long pants into your socks and boots. Wear a head covering or hat for
- For those who may not tolerate wearing all of these clothes in hot, muggy
weather, apply insect repellent containing DEET (30 percent or less) to exposed
skin (except the face). Be sure to wash treated skin after coming indoors. If
you do cover up, use repellents containing permethrin to treat clothes
(especially pants, socks and shoes) while in locations where ticks may be
common. Follow label directions; do not misuse or overuse repellents. Always
supervise children in the use of repellents.
- Walk in the center of trails so weeds do not brush against you.
- Check yourself, children and other family members every two to three hours
for ticks. Most ticks seldom attach quickly and rarely transmit tickborne
disease until they have been attached for four or more hours.
- If you let your pets outdoors, check them often for ticks. Infected ticks
also can transmit disease to them. (Check with your veterinarian about
preventive measures against tickborne diseases.) You are at risk from ticks
that "hitch a ride" on your pets but fall off in your home before
- Remove any tick promptly. Do not try to burn the tick with a match or
cover it with petroleum jelly or nail polish. Do not use bare hands. The best
way to remove a tick is to grasp it with fine-point tweezers as close to the
skin as possible and gently, but firmly, pull it straight out. Do not twist or
jerk the tick. If tweezers are not available, grasp the tick with a piece of
cloth or whatever can be used as a barrier between your fingers and the tick.
You may want to put the tick in a jar of rubbing alcohol labeled with the date
and location of the bite in case you seek medical attention and your physician
wishes to have the tick identified.
- Wash the bite area and your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and apply
an antiseptic to the bite site.
- Make sure the property around your home is unattractive to ticks. Keep
your grass mowed and keep weeds cut.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Fact sheets ("HealthBeats") on
disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and
tularemia are available on the Department's
Web site, www.idph.state.il.us, or by calling
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Questions or Comments