Summertime and Missouri Ticks
Summertime is a time for swimming, camping, fishing, and ticks. Missouri is home to two kinds of ticks that cause illness: the Lone Star tick and the American dog tick.
The Lone Star tick is responsible for ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and the Heartland virus. The Lone Star Tick is a very aggressive tick and is distinguished by a white dot or “lone star” on its back. Lone star tick saliva can be irritating; redness and discomfort at a bite site does not necessarily indicate an infection. Lone Star ticks can also trigger an alpha-gal syndrome which can be described as sensitivity to red meat that can result in symptoms such as itching, hives, swollen lips and breathing problems. The reaction can sometimes be life threatening.
The American dog tick is responsible for Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. The highest risk of being bitten occurs during spring and summer. The American dog tick is a rather colorful tick and is commonly found in highly wooded, shrubby, and long grass areas.
Symptoms of ehrlichiosis, RMSF, tularemia, and Heartland virus include: sudden fever, headache, body aches and fatigue. If you have any of these symptoms, call your primary care physician as antibiotics may be needed.
Take these precautions if you are headed into a tick habitat:
• Wear light-colored long pants, long sleeves and socks
• Apply insect repellents with 20% - 50% DEET on skin and clothing
• Children 2 months and older, use a repellent ≤ 30% DEET
• Check frequently for ticks
• Use fine-tipped tweezers to grab an attached tick close to skin and pull straight up with a steady motion until removed