Keep Ticks Away: New Apps to Keep Those Tiny Bugs at Bay 

Whether you are on a hike in the woods, walking near a field or just doing yard work, you and your pets could be a target for ticks this summer and fall. And this year, the chance of finding ticks on your clothing or your dog’s fur seem to be even higher than normal. State pest experts say Michigan is in the midst of a tick explosion this season. But there are things you can do to minimize your exposure to ticks, and new apps that can help keep those bugs at bay. 

Know your ticks. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, there are more than 20 species of ticks in Michigan, but there are five common types of ticks found in the state. Some are more dangerous than others. Most ticks will feed on wildlife, biting an animal and staying attached while it sucks their blood. Some ticks will also hop onto people and bite them. Depending on what kind of tick bites a person, there is a possibility of disease. For example, more than 300,000 people contract Lyme disease each year, transmitted by infected ticks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Here are the kinds of ticks people and pets are most likely to encounter: 

  • American dog ticks are widespread throughout Michigan. 
  • Blacklegged ticks can transmit Lyme disease, a serious illness. 
  • Lone star ticks are aggressive biters and are being found in higher numbers in Michigan. 
  • Woodchuck ticks are more commonly found on dogs. 
  • Brown dog ticks can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever disease. 

Tick surge. Michigan scientists who research tick populations say their numbers are growing across the state. For example, higher numbers of Lone star ticks – which a new study shows can cause some people who are bitten to develop an allergic reaction to red meat – are being found in southwest Michigan, according to Michigan State University researchers. But other types of ticks are also being seen in bigger numbers in lots of spots across the state.  

Pick a tick app. To get information about where ticks are being found, MSU researchers created The Tick App with the help of scientists at the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University. It can be downloaded on both Android and Apple devices. The app offers tick prevention tips, how-to steps if you need to remove a tick, and a quick reporting option for entering where and when you found a tick. You can even submit a picture of the tick and someone will respond and identify it for you. Other apps like TickCheck also will help you identify different kinds of ticks. 

Top tips for dealing with ticks. Prevention is key when it comes to avoiding tick bites, from where you walk to what you wear and what kind of pest spray you use. The DNR and MSU offer these tips when you are spending time outdoors: 

  • Stay on cleared trails. Walking off-trail through the woods or high grasses increases the chance you’ll encounter ticks. 
  • Wear light-colored clothes so you can spot ticks more easily. Some may be as small as a sesame seed.  
  • After you’ve been outside, check your body for ticks. Shower. Put your clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any that hitchhiked inside. 
  • Use a spray repellant designed to kill ticks. Usually mosquito repellant is also formulated for ticks. 
  • If you find a tick attached to your skin, use tweezers to remove it. Place the tick in a baggie and put it in the freezer. If you become sick, take the tick to your health care provider so it can be identified. 

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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