There are a plentiful population of mosquitoes and ticks and the dreaded chigger- especially this year with so much rain and flood water lying in our pastures and flood plains.
According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, “West Nile Virus is the most common mosquito-borne disease in Kansas and the United States.” Kansas falls in the 3rd 20th percentile nationwide of reported mosquito and tick disease cases.
While the risk may appear minimal, taking precautions are well worth the investment as tick bites and mosquitoes can transfer some very uncomfortable diseases. Chigger bites can cause extreme itchiness and can take months for the scabs and scarring to dissipate.
Here are some top tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to help keep you bite free this summer.
Before you go outside:
• Take a few moments and consider the environment you will experience and consider where you may encounter ticks, mosquitoes and chiggers.
• Ticks live in grassy, bushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting could expose you to come into contacts with ticks.
• Ticks can also be hitchhikers on your backpacks, socks, clothing, hats and other equipment.
• Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood. Similarly, mosquitoes are encountered in many places including your yard, trees, shrubs and shady areas.
• Chiggers also love a less-than-sunny environment with plenty of moisture.
Wear insect repellent:
• Look for products that contain one of the following ingredients: DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), Para-menthane-diol (PMD) or 2-undecanone and apply it under your clothing and on top of any sunscreen you may be wearing.
• Cover your face, neck and ears as well as the extremities and torso.
• When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. For more information: www2.epa.gov/insect-repellents.
Protect yourself around the home:
• Use air conditioning as much as you can.
• Check and fix any window screens that can allow the passage of insects.
• Clear the outside of your home of standing water at least weekly, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out items that hold water, such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, or trash containers.
Treat clothing and gear:
• Treat items such as boots, pants, socks, and tents with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
• Permethrin-treated clothing will protect you through multiple washings, but refer to the manufacturers information to determine the length of effectiveness.
• Treat your outdoor gear with Permethrin by following the instructions and taking safety precautions.
• Do not use permethrin products directly on skin.
• Although chigger larvae can penetrate many types of clothing, high boots and trousers of tightly woven fabric, tucked into stockings or boots, help deter them.
Protect your baby or child:
• Always follow instructions when applying insect repellent to children.
• Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.
• Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
• Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
• Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
• Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
• Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthanediol (PMD) on children under 3 years of age.
After you come inside:
Shower within two hours of coming inside as this activity has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tick-borne diseases. Some believe that this also will help reduce the severity of a chigger attack. Be sure to use plenty of soap and make it as hot as is comfortable. Showering also may wash off unattached ticks and is a great time to do the tick check.
Examine yourself and your children for ticks as soon as possible after returning inside and pay special attention to areas under the arms, in and around the ears, navel, backs of knees, hairlines, and around the waist and between the legs. Chiggers are nearly invisible to the naked eye, so you will need to look for small bite marks.
Wash your clothes as soon as possible in hot water and dry on high heat for a minimum of 10 minutes. Cold or warm water will have little effect on ticks or chiggers.
Ticks can hitchhike into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and daypacks.
Don’t be afraid
Go ahead and enjoy the wonderful outdoor opportunities this summer. With a few precautions, you should be able to lower the risk of exposure to ticks, mosquitoes and chiggers.