Tick season is upon us in northern Colorado.
Spring and summer are the top times for those seemingly invisible, blood-feeding parasites that latch onto people and animals while we’re out and about enjoying the great outdoors.
And because there is vast outdoors space for Colorado residents to explore and visit, it makes sense for us to be aware of what we might encounter with some of the 27 tick species known to be in Colorado — a fact from Colorado State University Extension.
The CSU Extension Office also reports:
Rocky Mountain wood tick: the most common species found in Colorado The tick is most active in the spring; it becomes dormant with warm weather in summer.
Brown dog tick: Another common type of tick found in Colorado. In fact, these little buggers are found worldwide, according to the CDC. They are most likely found on dogs, but the tick might also bite humans or other mammals.
Colorado tick fever: by far the most common tick-transmitted disease of the region, according to CSU Extension. CTF is a caused by the CTF virus – transmitted by the bit of an infected Rocky Mountain wood tick — and it’s rare, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Symptoms include: fever, chills, headache, body aches and fatigue.
Oh, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever is rare in Colorado, according to a Colorado State University Extension fact sheet on Colorado ticks and tick-borne diseases.
Tick families: there are two types, or families, of ticks in Colorado, hard ticks and soft ticks.
Hard ticks: distinguished by a plate on the back behind the head. These ticks also have visible mouthparts that are directed forward. The Rocky Mountain Wood tick is a hard tick. So is the brown dog tick.
Soft ticks: don’t have the plate, and have a less regularly rounded body. The mouthparts of soft ticks are not visible from above.
We talked with an official with the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment for ‘tick tips’ for 2019.
Kristeen Bevel, an environmental health specialist with the county, said the department doesn’t know what the tick season will bring this year.
Dr. Whitney Cranshaw, a Colorado State professor and one of the authors of the CSU Extension fact sheet, wrote in an email that there is no agency in Colorado set up to report if tick incidence is up or down in a given year.
“The situation with ticks is always very, very local, so it is never possible to make a generalization,” Cranshaw wrote.
Whatever the status of ticks might be from year-to-year, there are always steps you can take to prevent a bite. And then, there are things to do if you or your animals come in from the outside with a tick as a souvenir.
Where ticks live
Bevel said if you’re outdoors in grassy, brushy or wooded areas, that’s when people and pets are most likely exposed.
Ticks also go where their animal hosts go, according to the CSU Extension Office. So, watch out for the edges of fields and woodlands and commonly traveled paths through grassy areas and shrublands.
What to wear
Long pants, long-sleeved shirts can keep ticks off the skin. Wear long socks, too, so they be pulled over the bottom of your pants — decreasing skin exposure.
Go for light-colored clothing; it’s easier to spot ticks on light colors.
Bevel suggests applying an EPA-registered tick repellent before you head outdoors to areas where ticks might be.
CSU Extension suggests DEET, and other active ingredients are also effective: picaridan, IR3535 and oil of lemon eucalyptus. These can be applied to the skin or clothing – especially socks, pant legs — on the lower body.
With children, don’t use high-concentration formulations (for example, no DEET concentration higher than 30%).
Bevel said a veterinarian-approved tick prevention product is best for pets.
Tick check: After spending time outdoors, you should check yourself and your dog if Fido was with you. Bevel said it’s recommended doing a full-body check for ticks and take a shower.
Gotcha: If you find a tick, remove ASAP with tweezers. Bevel says to grasp the tick close to the surface of your skin and pull straight up and away from the skin. Try not to crush the tick. Then, wash the area thoroughly or even treat with a disinfectant.
Tick burial: Yes, perhaps it made your life miserable — or incredibly inconvenient — after your trek through the woods but resist the urge to smash it to smithereens.
Instead, dispose of a live tick by depositing it in alcohol, place it in a sealed bag/container, wrap it tightly in tape or flush it.
If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor according to the CSU Extension. Tell your doctor about the recent tick bite, when the bite occurred and where you most likely acquired the tick.
— Anne Delaney covers high school and recreational sports for The Greeley Tribune. Contact Anne at email@example.com, (970) 392-5647 or on Twitter @AnneGDelaney.