Ticks

Image © Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, www.bugwood.org

The most common species of ticks in DuPage County are the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), which is sometimes referred to as the wood tick, the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum), and the black-legged or deer tick (Ixodes scapularis).

American dog and lone star ticks are fairly abundant from the middle of April through August. Deer tick populations, however, rise in mid-April, subside in mid-June, when temperatures begin to rise, and increase again late September through the beginning of November.

Ticks’ life cycles are similar to other invertebrates’ and include egg, larva, nymph and adult stages. To advance from one stage to the next, a tick needs to take a blood meal, preferably from a rodent, bird, deer or dog but occasionally from a horse or human. As a result, ticks are attracted to carbon dioxide, a gas that results from the respiration of all animals. Like mosquitoes, ticks congregate where they find mammals, carbon dioxide and ideal breeding habitats, such as along travel corridors like footpaths and deer trails.

Preventing Tick Bites

Ticks usually hang out on grasses or forbs 2 inches to 3 feet above the ground, where they can hook onto hosts for blood meals, but people can easily avoid most tick encounters.

  • Wear light-colored clothing. It makes it easier to spot crawling ticks.
  • Tuck your pant legs into your socks to keep ticks from crawling inside. Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not fall from trees. They are sometimes found on human heads because they tend to climb as they look for moist or warm areas ideal for feeding.
  • Walk in the center of the trail.
  • When spending time outdoors, use insect repellent containing DEET, which is applied directly to the skin, or permethrin, which is applied only to clothing, in accordance with the manufacturers’ directions.
  • After spending time outdoors, place clothes in a hot dryer for one hour to help kill any ticks that may still be attached. 
  • Check clothes, skin and pets for ticks while outside, when you return home, and the following morning. Good places to look for ticks on skin are the legs, underwear area, waist, armpits and head.
  • If a tick is embedded under the skin, the Centers for Disease Control recommends using fine-tipped tweezers to firmly grasp the tick very close to the skin and to pull the tick’s body away from the skin with a steady motion. The skin should then be cleaned with soap and warm water.
  • See your doctor if you develop any unexplained rash or illness accompanied by a fever.

Public Health Concerns

Ticks are known to transmit diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease to humans and pets.

Lyme disease was detected in ticks in DuPage County for the first time in 2005. Infected deer ticks are most likely to transmit Lyme disease during the nymph stage. Like the other conditions, it is quite rare in humans and can be treated successfully with antibiotics if caught early. Early stages of Lyme disease include its signature bull’s-eye rash, headache and fever. 

For information on ticks and topics like Lyme disease in Illinois, call the Illinois Department of Public Health at (217) 782-5830, visit www.idph.state.il.us, or call the DuPage County Health Department at (630) 682-7979, ext. 7553.

Willowbrook Wildlife Center

If you come across a wild animal and are concerned, leave it alone. Call Willowbrook Wildlife Center for advice at (630) 942-6200. The center is located at 525 S. Park Blvd. in Glen Ellyn and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except select holidays. Recorded messages provide general information for callers when the center is closed.

Image © U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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