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Tick Season Be Aware & Prepared


Conditions this spring and early summer are just right for an annoying hitchhiker to invade your outdoor activities this summer: ticks.  Officials at the Center for Disease Control are alerting us to be on the lookout for this small but impactful parasite when we venture outdoors.


First, to put this in perspective, tick bites in Colorado may result in sickness, but they are very rarely severe or fatal.  In addition, there have no been confirmed cases of Lyme disease originating in the state. 


The most common types of ticks in Colorado are the Rocky Mountain wood tick, the American dog tick, and the brown dog tick.  To see a map showing the distribution of these ticks in Colorado, click here


The most common form of illness is Colorado tick fever and, less commonly, Rocky Mountain spotted fever.   Colorado tick fever’s symptoms closely resemble those of the flu:  fever, chills, aches, and fatigue.  Sometimes the symptoms are so mild that the person may not even realize they have been infected. About 200 cases are reported each year in Colorado with symptoms lasting from one to three days. 


Ticks are common at high altitudes in Colorado (they range in altitude from 4,000’ to 10,000’). Ticks thrive in brush-filled areas bordering on fields and thicker woods.  Ticks are sensitive to and attracted by carbon dioxide exhaled from mammals. They seek out the carbon dioxide while waiting for the animal to pass by and then attach to their host from low vegetation.


The tick season begins in late spring and usually winds down in mid-July. Once summer temps get high, they take shelter from the heat under the leaves until the next season.



To protect yourself, use insect repellant that contains DEET.  You can apply DEET directly to the skin, and it is also effective when applied to clothing. A couple of cautions about DEETS: wash your hands after applying to avoid having it come in contact with your mouth, and do not use high-concentration formulas (above 30%) on children. 


Check your self  and your pets, particularly your dog, after being outdoors.  Blood-feeding ticks can take up to 24 hours to settle in to their feeding spot, so you have time to find them before they burrow in for a meal. 


An old myth says to put a match to the back-end of a tick to get him to back out.  Don’t do this to your dog OR yourself!


The best way to remove a tick is to put rubbing alcohol on the bite and gently pull the tick out with a pair of tweezers, pulling straight out at a 90-degree angle to your skin.  Be sure to pull out the head and the entire body. If you don’t have tweezers, use a tissue to provide a barrier between the tick and your fingers.  Wash the bite with a disinfectant and wash your hands.  If you have any symptoms after a few days, go to the doctor.  While there is no specific treatment for Colorado tick fever, a doctor may be able to reduce the discomfort of the symptoms.


For more information about ticks in Colorado, check out this site from Colorado State University.


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