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For the Health of It: Avoid tick-borne illnesses with a few common-sense precautions.

March 22, 2024

3 Min Read
Tick on body
TICK TIME: Spring is tick time, and with all of the potential illnesses and diseases that can come from ticks, it is wise to take a few precautions to reduce the risk. Ladislav Kubeš/Getty Images

Editor's note: For a Spanish version of this story, click "Download now" at the top or bottom of this page.

by Ellen Duysen

It is hard to believe that it is time for a "tick talk" already. Just as warmer spring weather has us spending more time in our pastures and fields, disease-transmitting tick nymphs are emerging and actively looking for hosts to feed on.

Unfortunately, that host could be you. Tick-borne diseases are transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of infected ticks.

Disease list

Here are some common tick-borne diseases and the symptoms:

Lyme disease. This is caused by a bacterium and is transmitted primarily by the black-legged tick (deer tick) in the Northeast and Upper Midwest of the U.S. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic bull's-eye rash.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever. This is caused by a bacterium. It is transmitted primarily by the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick and brown dog tick. Symptoms include fever, headache, rash and muscle aches.

Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis. These are caused by two different species of bacteria. The black-legged tick and the lone-star tick transmit these diseases. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue.

Babesiosis. This is caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells; the black-legged tick transmits this parasite. Symptoms include fever, chills, sweats, headache, body aches, loss of appetite, nausea and fatigue.

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Heartland virus. The lone-star tick transmits this disease. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, decreased appetite, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and muscle or joint pain.

Removal tips

Removing attached ticks quickly is crucial to reducing the risk of disease transmission. The sooner you remove the tick, the less chance you will have of getting infected.

Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. After removing the tick, clean the area with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

Place the tick in a plastic bag and label the bag with the date and where the tick was embedded on your body. If you develop a rash or fever within two weeks of a tick bite, consult your health care provider. Bring the bagged tick with you to the appointment. Early detection and treatment can prevent complications from tick-borne diseases.

Prevention methods

The good news is that there are easy ways to combat these pests. Prevention methods not only include personal protection, but also environmental management. Follow these tips:

  • Trim grass and vegetation around homes and buildings to reduce places for ticks to hide.

  • Check yourself and your pets daily for ticks and always before entering your vehicle or home.

  • Use insect repellents containing DEET or permethrin on skin and clothing. Insecticide wipes are available for convenient skin application.

  • Wear long sleeves and pants, tuck your pant legs into socks, and wear light-colored clothing to spot ticks more easily.

  • Use tick control products on your pets and livestock.

  • Carry a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, plastic baggies and a marker in your vehicle's first-aid kit.

For more "tick talk," download the CDC's Tick Bot and tick identification card on the CS-CASH website at go.unmc.edu/tick-info.

Duysen is a research assistant professor at the UNMC College of Public Health and is coordinator of CS-CASH.

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