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Master Gardener: Tick season has started

Barbara Sanders
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Rocky Mountain wood tick
Courtesy photo

Colorado has several species of ticks, all of which carry diseases. The one you most likely have seen is the brown dog tick which mainly favors dogs as a host. This tick is found worldwide. The Rocky Mountain wood tick is another tick that you should be aware of as it prefers large mammals, such as deer and humans.

Both of these ticks carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which is a bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics if started soon after the bite. Look for a rash, headache and stomach ache. This tick also carries Colorado tick fever virus and tularemia virus, neither of which can be cured. Use aspirin and Acetaminophen to help with the fever and headache. Also, check in with your doctor. The tick that carries Lyme disease is not found in Colorado.

When hiking, avoid brushy areas, wear light-colored long sleeves, pants tucked in and socks rolled outside your pants. Use tick repellent. There are several complex chemical kinds, but the simplest and most widely available are products containing DEET.

Master Gardener: For more

Colorado State University Master Gardeners are available to answer your gardening questions. Email csumgprogram@co.routt.co.us or call the CSU Extension office at 970-879-0825 and ask to leave a message for the Master Gardeners. Thursday morning office hours and scheduled site visits are currently suspended.

The stronger the concentration, the longer the product lasts. The milder concentrations are safer for skin and children. There is also a chemical called permethrin which lasts through several washings. There is a do-it-yourself treatment at sectionhiker.com. There is a simpler solution found at insectshield.com, where you can purchase already treated clothes or send your clothes and gear to get treated. 

When you return from your hike, do a tick check. A tick takes 12 to 24 hours to find a place to feed so check underarms, around and in the ear, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, waist, hairline and scalp.

Remove the tick slowly with tweezers. They carry disease so use alcohol. Dispose by sealing in a plastic bag, wrapping with tape, tossing in a jar of alcohol or flushing down the toilet. Wipe the bite site with alcohol and wash your hands.

Ticks are very complicated with different hosts, different life stages and different survivability. Most of all, take them seriously. A little preparation and attention before you adventure out into the woods never hurts.

Barbara Sanders as been a Routt County Master Gardener since 2000.


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