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Properly removing ticks, treating wounds reduces risks of contracting disease

Moisture from spring rains and snowmelt creates perfect living conditions for ticks in the Carbon County area and locations across the state.

For outdoor enthusiasts, traveling in the canyons could result in an unpleasant encounter with the hungry hitchhikers, cautioned Ryan Davis, Utah State University Extension arthropod diagnostician.

Ticks are tiny creatures with one apparent body segment, eight legs and large protruding mouthparts used for sucking blood from an unsuspecting host.

Ticks are not insects, but are closely related to spiders and mites, explained Davis.

In Utah, hard ticks, especially the American dog and Rocky Mountain wood ticks, are most often encountered, explained Davis.

The adult arthropods lay eggs on the ground and young ticks seek to feed on small mammals. Adult ticks more commonly feed on large mammals, including humans.

A tick's life cycle can take months to years to complete, depending on environmental conditions and the availability of food.

If a tick cannot find food, it will retreat to the leaf litter and remain dormant until conditions are favorable, according to the USU Extension arthropod diagnostician. But ticks are hardy and can last months to years without feeding.

In Utah, adult ticks are most likely encountered between March and early-to-mid-July, but are worst during the rainy season.

Ticks go dormant when it is hot and dry.

•To avoid coming into contact with ticks, Davis recommended that Carbon County residents:

Avoid areas where ticks and their food sources are abundant from March to mid-July. Examples include grassy and bushy areas along the edges of woodlands and fields.

Apply tick repellent to clothing before entering tick habitat.

Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. People should tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks.

While the practice is helpful, ticks are still capable of finding their way beneath clothing, pointed out Davis. Therefore, people should consider wearing light-colored clothes to make it easier to detect and remove ticks.

Conduct tick checks.

Ticks usually take a few hours or more to find a feeding location and insert their mouthparts.

Frequent examinations for ticks on the body can keep them from beginning to feed.

Ticks are small so people should check everywhere on the body, including armpits, waistline, belly button, scalp and crotch areas, said Davis.

•To reduce the chance of contracting a tick-borne disease, Davis advised local residents to:

Use tweezers and grasp large ticks as closely to the skin as possible, targeting the mouthparts.

If tweezers are not available, people should use a loop of thread around the mouthparts or a needle between the mouthparts of the large ticks.

Then, they should carefully pull large ticks straight upward without twisting or crushing it.

People should use steady pressure until the tick releases.

Crushing or squeezing the arthropod can cause it to regurgitate stomach contents into the host's blood stream, which can transmit tick-borne diseases, warned Davis.

Scrape smaller ticks with a knife blade or credit card edge.

After removal of the arthropod, people should place the tick in a sealed container in case a doctor wants to see it.

•To treat tick bites, Davis recommended that local residents:

Clean the area around the bite and use a sterile needle to carefully lift or scrape the head from the skin.

Wash the wound and hands with soap and water after removal.

Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to help reduce the chance of catching a tick-borne or secondary infection.

Other tick removal methods should not be used, stressed arthropod diagnostician.

Despite claims to the contrary, the approaches increase the chance that a tick will regurgitate disease-containing saliva into the victim's body.

Removing ticks before the arthropods feed is ideal for avoiding contracting related diseases.

In Utah, there are few confirmed cases of Lyme disease, continued Davis.

Ticks in the Rocky Mountain Region have not been shown to carry the disease.

However, western ticks can carry other diseases, including Colorado and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

If Carbon County residents are bitten by a disease-carrying tick, they can expect to experience symptoms in about seven days, explained Davis. If a tick has fed on a person, it is best for the individual to consult a doctor for treatment.

Different ticks carry different diseases. Some tick-borne diseases are bacterial and treatable, while others are non-treatable viruses, concluded Davis.

For additional information, Carbon County residents with Internet access may visit

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