Living in the South is often equated with hunting—deer, duck, turkey, quail–you name it, we probably hunt it! So this hunting season protect yourself, your family, and your pets from tick bites. Hunting brings you in close contact with ticks and their habitats, so take the proper precautions to reduce your changes of being bitten. If you develop a fever or a rash following tick exposures, see your doctor immediately. Most tickborne diseases can be effectively treated if caught early.
Ticks can spread serious and potentially fatal diseases like tularemia, ehrilichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Lyme disease. While most tickborne infections occur during the summer, ticks may still be active well into the fall especially if the weather is as warm as it has been this year! Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, and on animals themselves. Hunting brings you in close contact with the tick’s natural habitat. Take precautions this hunting season so you and your pets remain healthy!
There are currently no vaccines to prevent tickborne disease in the United States, so the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your pets is to promptly remove the attached tick. Here are some things to remember when you prepare for open season this year.
Before you leave for the deer woods, or the hunt:
- Treat your clothing with permethrin. Products that contain permethrin will kill ticks and it can be used to treat your boots, clothing, camping gear, etc. It also lasts through several washings—follow the directions the product gives you.
- Treat your dogs for ticks. Dogs are highly susceptible to tick bites and tickborne disease. Use products that your veterinarian recommends.
- Tuck your clothing in to prevent ticks from crawling inside clothing. This means you need to tuck your pants inside your boots or socks, and tuck in your shirt like your mother always told you!
While you are hunting:
- Walk in the center of trails or path so you can avoid brushing up against the ticks that are in the brush, grass, and woods.
- Wear gloves when dressing or butchering game and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Animals often carry diseases which may affect people including brucellosis, tularemia, and rabies. Better safe than sorry!
- Ticks may fall off the recently killed animals, pay close attention because they will be looking for a new host and that will include people!
After your hunt is over:
- Shower immediately to help remove unattached ticks.
- Perform a full body check to look for ticks. Use a hand mirror or have someone help you with the hard to see areas. Ticks are commonly found attached to people under the arms, around your waist, inside your belly button, in and around the ears and hair, on the back of your knees, between your legs.
- Check your hunting dogs for ticks after the hunt. The most common places you will find ticks on dogs include the ears, arm pits, groin, and between their toes.
- Remove any attached ticks immediately from people or pets. To remove a tick grasp it with tweezers (as close to the skin as possible) and pull straight out. Do not twist or jerk it as this may cause the head to stay attached. There is detailed information about removing ticks on this website: www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html
In the weeks following being exposed to tick areas you need to watch for any sign of illness–even if you don’t remember being bitten by a tick. If caught early tickborne diseases can be treated effectively. Go to see your doctor if you develop a fever, rash, or flu-like symptoms. Make sure you tell your doctor that you were exposed to ticks.
Tickborne diseases in the United States
Ticks can carry a wide variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites which can make you and your pet sick. The United States has hundreds of thousand cases of tickborne diseases each year. These cases range from mild to life-threatening and may progress rapidly. While most tickborne diseases are spread from the bite, the bacteria that causes tularemia can be spread from the bite of ticks or deer flies OR during contact with infected animals and their carcasses. Contact with infected animals usually happens to hunter during skinning or processing infected animals (this includes the small animals as well–rabbits, muskrats, squirrel, prairie dogs and other rodents). Gloves should be worn when handling dead animals. While we may not always notice it, our animals can be infected and show signs of tularemia as well. Call your veterinarian if your dog develops a fever, becomes depressed or loses its appetite.
Remember….. to make the tick your target on your next hunt:
- treat your clothing with permethrin
- tuck in your pants and shirt
- shower as quickly as you can when your hunting trip is complete
- check for ticks on people and pets
- if you develop a fever or rash, see your doctor immediately.