Reminder: Ticks, mosquitoes abundant this summer in Michigan

Doctors remind parents to protect children from prominent pests

Health experts say there is an increased risk of a tick bite
Health experts say there is an increased risk of a tick bite

DETROIT – With summer about to arrive in Michigan, doctors are warning residents to take steps to protect themselves from ticks and mosquitoes.

For several summers ticks have become a bigger problem in Southeast Michigan. Many parents in the area have already reported finding ticks on their children in recent weeks. Most had been playing in their own backyards or in parks -- not necessarily just in heavily wooded areas.

A new national poll from Mott Children’s Hospital found that 23% of parents are very concerned about mosquito-borne illnesses. Twice as many parents are worried specifically about ticks, with 46% reporting a high level of concern.

In Michigan, mosquitoes can carry viruses such as West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, which can cause permanent disabilities and even death. The most common tick-borne illness in Michigan is lyme disease.

The Mott poll found most parents say they usually use bug spray on their children, but they were more likely to do so in wooded or swampy areas, not necessarily in yards, neighborhoods or parks. Just one in three parents reported using bug repellent that contains DEET -- the most effective ingredient to protect against mosquito bites.

Steps to stay protected from ticks, mosquitoes as summer arrives in Michigan
Steps to stay protected from ticks, mosquitoes as summer arrives in Michigan

The study found 34% of parents often have their children wear long pants and long sleeves to protect against bites, while 21% wear light-colored clothing.

Experts said 73% of parents always have their children wear shoes outside.

Since an infected tick generally needs to stay attached for at least 24 hours to transmit lyme disease, it’s important to do thorough tick checks on children when they come indoors. Also, parents should learn how to remove ticks properly.

Make a habit of putting on bug spray to protect against mosquitoes and ticks. It’s not just an issue for people who travel up north or hike in the woods. It’s also in our own backyards.

Tick season in Michigan: How to stay safe as lyme disease risk spreads east

Although ticks can spread multiple illnesses, Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in Michigan. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted by the blacklegged/deer tick.

Related: 5 invasive insects to watch out for in Michigan

The blacklegged tick is well-established in Michigan’s western Upper and Lower Peninsulas. However, it is expanding into new areas across the Lower Peninsula. In 2017, there were more than 300 human cases of Lyme disease reported, and approximately two out of three cases reported exposure in Michigan.

Read more here.

What you need to know to protect your family and pets from ticks this summer -- watch:

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How to protect yourself from ticks

Avoid tick-infested areas.

  • Walk in the center of trails to avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush and leaf litter at trail edges.
  • Protect your pets too! Dogs and cats can come into contact with ticks outdoors and bring them into the home, so using tick prevention products on pets is also recommended.

Use insect repellent.

  • Apply repellent containing DEET (20-30 percent) or Picaridin on exposed skin.
  • Treat clothes (especially pants, socks and shoes) with permethrin, which kills ticks on contact or buy clothes that are pre-treated. Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying repellents.

Perform daily tick checks.

  • Always check for ticks on yourself and your animals after being outdoors, even in your own yard.
  • Inspect all body surfaces carefully, and remove attached ticks with tweezers.
  • To remove a tick, grasp the tick firmly and as closely to the skin as possible. With a steady motion, pull the tick’s body away from the skin. Cleanse the area with an antiseptic.

Bathe or shower.

  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
  • Washing clothing in hot water and drying on high heat will kill ticks in clothing.
  • Michigan citizens can submit ticks to MDHHS for identification and possible Lyme disease testing, free of charge.

About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.