The blacklegged tick has found itself a new home. Formerly known as “deer tick,” the blacklegged tick used to reside primarily in the Upper Peninsula and the very northern parts of the mitten. Due in part to the unseasonably warm winter and in part to shifts in population home bases, southeast Michigan is seeing a huge increase in the number of ticks.
The blacklegged tick can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease (among other bacteria and parasites), so precautions make sense when you know you’re going to be in a tick endemic area. All of the counties along the Lake Michigan lakeshore have been identified as endemic areas and the neighboring inland counties are either at risk or endemic as well. Here are some important precautions when it comes to ticks:
1. Look over your clothes and body every night to identify ticks. Typically, ticks don’t sting when they attach and need to be attached for more than 12 hours to transmit illness, so finding them promptly and removing them is essential.
2. When removing a tick, grasp it with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up quickly. Don’t twist, pull at an angle, use petroleum jelly, or a lit match to remove a tick. These other methods run the risk of injury and often leave tick parts embedded even if the body is removed.
3. Wear protective clothes with long sleeves, long pantlegs, and closed-toed shoes when hiking in areas where ticks are found.
4. Use DEET containing insect repellents when visiting these areas as well. DEET is safe even in the “deep woods” concentration for young children and only needs to be applied every 8 hours or so. For young children, taking a shower or bath before bed to wash it off makes sense.
5. Ticks like long grass and wooded areas best. So even shorelines that are near wooded areas and where natural sea grass grows on the beach can be areas where ticks find easy homes.
6. If you find and remove a tick, chances are you will never develop any symptoms of illness so don’t overly worry! Get out and enjoy the beauty our state has to offer in the summer and follow these simple guidelines to help avoid a tick bite.