After a mild winter, Nebraskans could see more ticks this season
LINCOLN, Neb (KLKN) – As the weather warms up and you start spending more time outdoors, you may want to watch out for any unwanted passengers on your clothes, shoes or even in your hair.
Experts say after a milder winter means we could be seeing more of the pests coming out of hibernation this year.
Tick season begins as early as February and will last throughout the summer, so right now, it’s open season for the blood-sucking bugs.
Leon Higley, a professor of applied ecology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said ticks can carry a variety of diseases that affect both humans and our pets.
“There’s a massive host of diseases that ticks can spread,” he said. “The only other organism that rivals ticks for the number of different diseases is mosquitoes. And I’ve always told my students that if ticks had wings, there would be a lot fewer human beings on this planet.”
Higley said the most common species you’ll see around Nebraska is the American dog tick. But there’s a variety of others, such as the deer tick, black-legged tick, and the lone star tick.
He said we’re starting to see more Southern species move north as the climate gets warmer.
Ticks are easy to miss and can be found just about anywhere outside, usually latching onto any clothing or soft material that brushes against plants.
“Immature ticks are desperate to find a host for blood feeding, so they climb up the stalks and have their little legs out, ready to grab on to anything they can,” Higley said. “If you’re worried about having ticks in your backyard or a lot or something, one of the ways we sample for ticks is to just take a piece of cloth or a towel and tie it to a stick and drag it along the ground and see how many attach.”
Ticks are often found in tall grasses, so Higley recommended using bug spray or wearing long sleeves and pants when outdoors to stop them getting to your skin.
He said ticks move from the ground up, so you’ll want to check your shoes and legs after going out for a walk.
Kelly Bond with Capitol Animal Clinic said if your dog or cat spends time outside, you should be checking their fur for ticks to keep them from biting your pets or getting inside.
“It’s not just the top of the dog,” she said. “You’re going to want to flip them over, do some belly rubs, check the armpits, look through those warm zones. They’re going to pick them up on their leg, but the tick can actually move fairly quickly to move up the leg to those warmer areas.”
Bond said one way to prevent ticks on your pets is by giving them tick preventive medicine, many of which can be applied directly to the skin underneath their fur.
If you do find a tick attached to you or your pet’s skin, Bond said not to follow any of the tricks you may have seen online, like using flames or acetone to remove it.
Instead, use tweezers, pliers or specialized tools to squeeze the tick’s head and mouth and pull it out of the skin.
Bond said it’s important that you don’t startle the tick or squeeze its backside. Otherwise, disease could be released back into the bloodstream.
She said you should also watch out for symptoms of diseases spread by ticks, joint pain, an unexplained rash or feeling sluggish.