The summer months mean heading outdoors to enjoy some of the warmer weather. However, we need to keep an eye out for tick season here in Kansas and be sure we are checking ourselves and our pets, especially in areas where tick populations thrive. Tick season runs, on average, from March to September. These pests like to hide out in taller grasses or weeds, along tree lines or shaded areas with more shrubbery. Pets walking around outdoors can easily carry ticks inside your home! Just ask Chief Meteorologist Lisa Teachman who has had to remove several from her pups over the last week alone.
Ticks are dangerous because they can carry harmful diseases with long-lasting health implications. One of the most common is Lyme Disease. Several actors, actresses and well-known public figures have come out in recent years about their lingering complications with the disease. So it is important that we are not only protecting ourselves as best as we can but also our pets. If a tick has taken a bite out of you, remove it carefully with tweezers, disinfect the area around the bite and keep a close eye out for a fever, rash or flu-like symptoms that may follow and seek medical attention. Put the tick into a plastic bag with the date written on it and place it in the freezer just in case the tick needs to be examined later.
The most common ticks found in Kansas are the American dog tick, the Lone Star tick, and Blacklegged tick which is commonly known as the Deer tick. These critters are small, about the side of a poppy seed. Ticks have a distinct oval body with eight legs.
Kansas and our surrounding states are favorable for ticks because temperatures are warm during the spring and summer months and humidity pools across the center of the country as moisture streams in from the Gulf of Mexico. Ticks do not drink water, so they must absorb water that lingers in the atmosphere in order to stay hydrated. This is also why they will prefer shaded locations as exposure to the sun aids in dehydrating the tick. As a result, they seek protection from the outdoor elements along low-lying vegetation to protect the moisture barrier that surrounds them. Temperatures above 44° are ideal as ticks will start to become more mobile.
If summertime plans take you outdoors, enjoy every minute of it, but also be vigilant to check yourself, family, friends and pets for ticks when it is time to head back indoors. It is recommended that you shower immediately after spending time outside and perform tick checks every couple of hours to ensure no tick has made it back inside with you. Common areas for ticks to hide will be in and around the hair and ear line, along legs near sock lines and anywhere that can be a bit more hidden on the body.
Wearing lighter-colored clothing when outdoors can help make ticks easier to spot since most are brown or black in color. Wearing long pants tucked into socks can help better protect your skin when walking through taller grasses. Insect repellents made specifically to deter ticks can also be helpful when used as directed to prevent from being bit or potentially killing ticks if they crawl onto your clothing.
Given that we have seen warmer than average temperatures and more rainfall in recent weeks, this will act to increase the tick population across the region. While spending time outdoors, be mindful of those areas with more dense vegetation including grass, trees, weeds and shrubs that tend to be more shaded and harbor the moisture a bit better as these will be areas ticks will favor. Finally, keep the grass around your home and property cut short along with the taller weeds. The shorter it is cut, the more sunshine will get through the ground to make it a less hospitable environment for ticks to thrive.
— Meteorologist Erika Paige