Be tick smart in the Ohio outdoors

Something – a biting insect for sure – had marched down my forearm and punched in a string of tiny bites.

I never even noticed the minor “attack” until, overnight, a reddish-purplish blob about two inches long raised up on the skin. It was not sore, painful, or itchy, and I felt no symptoms of distress. So I watched it but otherwise ignored it. At first the nice nearly straight line of tiny punctures were unnoticeable in the redness, but as it started to clear and dissipate, the teeny scarred piercings were visible.

Like most outdoors folks, I am outside a lot, cutting and hauling wood, clearing invasive plant species in my creek bottom, hunting, fishing, hiking, mowing, gardening – the usual. So exposure to biting insects is not a surprise.

That said, I could not figure out just what did the deed. A spider? A sweat bee, like the ones that were crawling on my sweating arms during an initial mowing session on a warm, sunny day? It was too early in the season for mosquitoes and the bite did not resemble those bites anyway. Because I never felt any biting or stinging, and had no other reactions, I decided just to watch the affected area and wait.

It turns out that watching for symptoms is a major recommendation for insects bites – including ticks, which are well active now and can carry and spread trouble, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Tickborne diseases spread by ticks are an increasing concern, with reports up in the last decade. In Ohio, tickborne illnesses are most often transmitted between early spring and late fall since ticks are most active during warm months.

Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) are the most common diseases.  Other may include anaplasmosis, babesiosis and ehrlichiosis.  Though rare, diseases such as tularemia, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI) and Powassan virus may also be carried by Ohio ticks.

The ODH’s Zoonotic Disease Program tracks and responds to tickborne diseases, collecting and analyzing data to detect trends in disease activity, investigating reported cases of tickborne diseases, collaborating with other state agencies and educating Ohioans about disease risks and prevention strategies.

Prevention of bites in the first place comes first. Knowing what ticks look like is also important. And proper removal of an attached tick is critical as well. Checking clothing before coming indoors, and checking your skins, everywhere, before a shower or bath also are high on the do-to list.

It is worth spending a few moments on the ODH online site to prepare for the biting season. Click here for more.

For the most part, your chances of getting bitten and infected with an illness are low and should not prevent you from enjoying the outdoors. Just be prepared and be smart.

Categories: Ohio – Steve Pollick

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