LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Memorial Day weekend is a time when many Arkansans are headed outdoors, but doctors are warning of a tiny pest that is already causing problems across the state – ticks.
Ticks carry a variety of illnesses that can be deadly if not treated correctly, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and the infamous Lyme Disease.
As more and more people head outside with the warming weather, health officials are issuing a strong warning.
Jessica Snowden is a pediatric Infectious disease expert who works with UAMS and Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and she said kids have already been heading to the doctor for tick bites, and the season is just kicking off.
Lyme disease is often the first illness people think of when ticks are brought up, but according to Snowden, Lyme Disease isn’t a major concern in Arkansas – but other illnesses are.
“The predominant tick-borne illnesses we see here in Arkansas aren’t Lyme disease at all,” she explained. “They’re actually Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis, and Tularemia.”
All of these diseases can make people seriously ill, but RMSP in particular can even be fatal if not treated.
There are ways to keep yourself safe, and it starts with dressing the part. When headed outdoors, it’s better to wear long sleeves and pants to keep your skin protected, and lighter-colored clothing will help you notice any ticks trying to take a bite.
You can also tuck the bottoms of your pants in your socks and boots to keep ticks out, and make sure to layer up on a bug spray that repels ticks.
Kids, pets, and adults should also be checked for ticks after spending time outdoors, with the most common bite areas being ankles, legs, and even the neck and hair for kids who sit in tall grass to play.
Prevention is more important than ever before, as the Natural State has one of the highest tick populations in the country.
“There was a study that was done a while ago where veterinarians across the country counted the number of ticks coming in on dogs,” Snowden explained, “and Arkansas was tops.”
Canines are also major carriers for the critters, which can affect animals and humans alike. Stephanie Ziller is a Little Rock dog owners who knows the importance of checking dogs after walks, especially in the summer months.
“It’s really important to start at the source, which tends to be canines,” Ziller said. “When you’re cuddling up especially if your dog sleeps with you, just to check them, kind of look them over.”
If you happen to find a tick on you that has already bitten down, the best thing to do is grab a pair of tweezers, pinch down at the head of the tick and pull it off. If you start to feel ill after a tick bite or after spending time in tick habitats, contact your doctor and get checked out.