Click here to see tips to protect yourself from ticks.
* * *
As a kid growing up in rural Sarpy County, Greg Wagner walked through lots of tall grass and wooded areas.
"As long as I can remember," the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission spokesman said, "I have never had ticks that were crawling on me or embedded in me prior to April 1. I have this year.
"I've never seen ticks this bad this early."
Wagner has been out hunting for morel mushrooms, scouting in preparation for turkey-hunting season — shotgun season, incidentally, starts Saturday — and fishing on the Elkhorn River. He has flicked off ticks each time.
Dr. Allan Erickson, a veterinarian at the Ralston Veterinary Clinic, said he found a tick on a dog in late February, and the clinic saw many ticks on dogs in mid- to late March.
Not to be alarmist, but ticks carry disease, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Tick-borne illnesses aren't as common in Nebraska and western Iowa as in other parts of the country, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take precautions against the bloodsuckers.
"Any time you walk through the woods, both grasslands and forest, check yourself when you're done," said Brendan Dunphy, a research associate in entomology at Iowa State University. Ticks, he said, "are out in force right now and will be for a while."
It's important to use products containing at least 20 percent DEET if you're going to be in wooded areas or tall grass, said Dr. Ann Garvey, Iowa's deputy state epidemiologist. She said people also should wear light-colored, long-sleeve shirts and pants so the ticks are easy to spot. Garvey said she found a couple of ticks in her 5-year-old daughter's hair after a recent hunt for morel mushrooms near Des Moines.
Wagner said he uses a tick repellent made with two cups of white vinegar, two cups of Avon Skin So Soft bath oil, one cup of water and a tablespoon of eucalyptus oil. "Mix it up in a spray bottle, let it sit and then apply it to your skin," he said.
Erickson said dog owners should consult with their veterinarians for recommendations on tick protection for their pets. He said he uses a product called Frontline Plus that is placed between a dog's shoulder blades and that makes ticks sick. Dog owners, he said, should regularly check their dogs for ticks — especially around the face and ears. If pet owners find a tick, he said, they should gently remove it. "Give it a twist," he said. "They will usually come off with a microscopic piece of skin in their mouth."
Contact the writer:
To protect yourself from ticks:
» Wear a hat and light-colored clothing, including long-sleeve shirts and long pants tucked into boots or socks.
» Use insect repellents that provide protection for the amount of time you will be outdoors.
» Use repellents containing 20 percent to 30 percent DEET.
» Use repellents such as Permethrin, which kills ticks on contact, for greater protection. Permethrin can be used on clothing but should not be used on skin. It should not be used around cats.
» Check your skin and clothes for ticks every day.
» Immediately remove ticks from your body using fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick firmly and as close to your skin as possible. Pull the tick's body away from your skin with a steady motion. Clean the area with soap and water.
» Wash and dry work clothes in a hot dryer.