When enjoying the great outdoors, it’s important to remember to protect yourself against a not-so-great part of the summer: Bugs.
While ticks and mosquitoes can put a damper on the beauty of nature, a few preventative measures and basic knowledge can go a long way in helping protect yourself, your children and your pets, according to an expert with the Metroparks of the Toledo Area.
Ticks can be a scary nuisance, due to their propensity to embed themselves into our skin and their potential to be carriers of conditions such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, admits Kim High, a naturalist/historical interpreter with the Metroparks.
However, they needn’t keep us from our parks, she says.
By far, the most common tick in Northwest Ohio is the American dog tick, which is most active in warmer months, typically from the end of April to mid-July, she says. Fortunately, this tick, which is about half the size of a watermelon seed, does not carry Lyme disease.
“They can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, so that’s something to be concerned about,” she says, noting there have been a very small number of cases reported in Lucas County. “It’s not like every tick you get carries spotted fever, not at all. It’s a relatively small percentage.”
According to the latest information available from the Lucas County Health Department, there were no confirmed or probable cases of spotted fever in the county in 2014, and just two cases of Lyme disease.
For tick prevention, stay on the trails.
Ticks are relatively prevalent, however, and those going off the trails are likely to pick them up, High says.
“If you are off the trails and you do a tick check, you are much more likely not to have a tick embed in you,” she says, noting that ticks often prefer to climb their way up the human body rather than latch into the skin on lower extremities.
The most likely areas to pick up ticks are wet grassy areas rather than in woodland areas, she says.
“Sometimes I do the nature-geek thing where I have my pants tucked into my socks, so if the tick’s going to climb up, I can see it on the outside,” she says. “I wear light-colored clothing and when I’m done, I check very closely for ticks. You can see them, and almost always feel them.”
She said it also helps that ticks are “insect turtles,” moving very slowly across human skin, giving the potential host plenty of time to recognize and remove them.
Keeping both yourself and your dog on the trail is the most effective way to not pick up ticks while in the Metroparks, High says, noting that the insects particularly like to embed themselves in dogs around the ears.
For more information on ticks, visit the TickEncounter Resource Center.
Layer up against mosquitos.
When it comes to mosquitoes, infestations can actually be worse in cities than in wooded areas, due to the presence of natural predators such as salamanders and dragonflies in mosquitoes’ breeding grounds of standing water, High says. The parks’ wet meadow areas may be “buggier” than woodland puddles for this reason.
She recommends using a couple layers of clothing to protect against bites, especially around dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
Are you more susceptible to mosquito bites? Read Dr. Cathy Cantor’s tips for avoiding mosquito bites.