AKRON OHIO – Akron Children’s Hospital reports a lot more tick bites than they normally see this time of year.
Camilla Giallourakis, a nurse practitioner in the hospital’s school-based health program, says school nurses from 33 different Northeast Ohio districts have reported seeing six tick bites in just the past week.
Giallourakis says that is not normally something they see until the summer months.
“It’s a lot earlier; normally we see these in June and July, warmer months. This has been particularly early for us,” said Giallourakis.
Experts with the Summit Metroparks say the wood tick, also known as a dog tick, which is the most prevalent in our area, is not normally active until later in the season.
But the deer tick, which is known to transmit Lyme disease, is typically active in the winter months and in the springtime and has been growing in numbers here in recent years.
“The first warm days of the spring in the woods especially on trails in or near in shady spots the deer tick will be out and get on people, deer, dogs.” said Rob Curtis the ecological supervisor for Summit Metroparks.
“I mean they are definitely increasing in numbers. We started seeing specifically the deer tick or blackleg tick about ten years ago, like I said, that was the first time I had ever seen it around here and it’s really been increasing exponentially, especially in the last few years,” he added.
“Ticks aren’t like lice or mosquitoes that tend to be prevalent in specific environments and simply bite,” said Dr. Blaise Congeni, director of infectious disease at Akron Children’s Hospital.
“Ticks are outdoors, in grass and wooded areas, and they bite, attach and burrow themselves into the skin, causing infection,” said Congeni.
The hospital recommends checking children who have been outdoors for ticks daily.
Experts say it is also important to know how to properly remove them if you find one.
“There are a couple of stories out there that if you use petroleum jelly or if you try to burn them off that helps, which doesn’t. You don’t want to do either of those two things. They will burrow into the skin actually further so what you want to do is to take a pair of tweezers, you go right at the head, close to the skin and just pull steadily until they let go,” said Giallourakis.
The hospital recommends monitoring any area suspected of being a tick bite, looking for signs of infection such as a red bump ringed by an expanding red rash that looks like a bullseye.
“It takes about 24-48 hours for a tick to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease,” said Congeni.
Giallourakis says using a repellent that contains high concentrations of DEET can help keep the ticks from biting but it is not a fail-safe.
Curtis says products that contain permethrin can be sprayed on clothing.
“That’s really the best prevention for ticks. They will just drop right off on contact with permethrin; this does stick on your clothing, goes through a number of washes and it’s not for contact with your skin,” said Curtis.
He also recommends wearing long, light-colored clothing outdoors, staying on groomed trails and out of tall grass or plants where the ticks tend to thrive.
The hospital also recommends inspecting children and adults who have been outdoors, particularly if they have been in woods or areas where ticks can live.
“Basically, they will reside in the hair, behind the ears, behind the ears, even kind of under the arms, around the waistband, inside the belly button; they like to burrow in between the legs, behind the knees and around the ankles, particularly,” said Giallourakis.
“I would not discourage park use; I would just kind of — it’s about awareness; it’s about being aware that they are out and they could be on overhanging vegetation so you are prepared,” said Curtis.