As spring blooms in Nebraska, it brings with it the start of the 2023 tick season. This year, Nebraskans should be particularly vigilant due to a spike in tick activity following a milder winter, which means more of these pests are emerging from hibernation. If you live in the Blair area, you’ve probably seen a tick already, or heard of others who did. And, with the presence of various tick species and the diseases they carry, it’s crucial for residents to take necessary precautions while enjoying the great outdoors.
Tick Species in the Blair, Nebraska Area
In Nebraska, there are several species of ticks to be aware of. The most common is the American dog tick, but others such as the deer tick, black-legged tick, and the lone star tick are also prevalent. Notably, the year 2023 has seen a migration of more southern species moving north as the climate gets warmer.
These ticks aren’t just a nuisance; they can carry a variety of diseases that affect both humans and pets. As Leon Higley, a professor of applied ecology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, put it, “There’s a massive host of diseases that ticks can spread”.
Where to Find Ticks
Ticks thrive in brushy, wooded, or grassy areas and latch onto any clothing or soft material that brushes against plants. They are small and easy to miss, often starting from the ground and moving upwards. After a day out, checking your shoes, legs, and pets for any unwanted passengers is essential.
Prevention and Protection
Preventing tick bites is a multi-step process. Before heading outdoors, it’s advisable to treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Wearing long pants tucked into socks and using an EPA-registered insect repellent can also provide protection. Walking in the center of trails and avoiding brushy, wooded, or grassy areas can also help reduce exposure to ticks.
Checking for Ticks
Upon returning indoors, it’s necessary to check for ticks. This includes examining clothing, gear, and pets. Showering within two hours of coming indoors might help wash off unattached ticks and offers a good opportunity for a full-body tick check.
If a tick is found on the skin, it’s important to remove it properly. This can be done using tweezers, pliers, or specialized tools to squeeze the tick’s head and mouth and pull it out of the skin. It’s crucial not to startle the tick or squeeze its backside, as doing so could release disease into the bloodstream.
After a tick bite, watch out for symptoms of diseases spread by ticks, such as joint pain, an unexplained rash, or feeling sluggish. If these symptoms appear, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately.
The 2023 tick season in Nebraska presents a challenge due to increased tick activity and the presence of diverse tick species. Nevertheless, with adequate knowledge and preparation, Nebraskans can enjoy outdoor activities while minimizing the risk of tick bites and the diseases they carry.
If you’ve been bitten by a tick, the most important step is to promptly remove the tick and clean the area. If you develop symptoms such as a rash, fever, joint pain, or fatigue in the weeks following a tick bite, it’s important to seek medical attention as these could be signs of a tick-borne disease, such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. In the case of such diseases, antibiotics are typically the first line of treatment.
Maintaining a strong immune system can help your body fight off potential infections, and certain vitamins and minerals play key roles in immune function:
- Vitamin C: This vitamin is crucial for immune function and skin health. It can help with wound healing and fighting off infections.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps modulate the body’s immune response, and deficiencies in this vitamin have been linked to increased susceptibility to infection.
- Zinc: This mineral is essential for immune cell function and inflammatory response.
- Probiotics: These can be beneficial for gut health, which is closely linked to immune function. This could be particularly useful if you’re taking antibiotics, which can disrupt the gut microbiome.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These can help reduce inflammation in the body.
- B Vitamins: Certain B vitamins, particularly B6, B9 (folate), and B12, are important for immune function.
Find out more about immune-boosting ideas at Blair’s low-cost supplement alternative.