Ticks in Colorado

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It is the season for ticks in Colorado. They thrive in habitat where there are deer, squirrels, birds, dogs, mountain bikers, hikers and kids wandering around the trails. It makes for easy hunting. Here are some tips for preventing tick bites.

PRINCE CREEK. MARION GULCH. ARBANEY KITTLE.

SOME OF THE TRAILS WE LOVE IN THE SPRING AND SUMMER ARE WELL-LOVED BY TICKS TOO!

HABITAT

Ticks gravitate to the lower elevation scrub/ Gambrel oak areas in western Colorado. They love tall grasses and any environment where they can easily fall from a low branch onto your socks, shoes or pants. Places like Red Hill aren’t as wonderful for them. They prefer more moisture and dense foliage. Ticks breed fast and thrive in areas that are frequently traveled by mammalian hosts – whether it be cattle, dogs, wildlife or humans.

How do ticks find you? Ticks sense body heat, carbon dioxide, vibrations and odors and thrive in areas of human or wildlife traffic.

PREVENTION

REPELLANTS
For children, try putting repellant on clothing, not skin. Picaridin, IR3535 and Lemon Eucalyptus oil products are DEET alternatives.

CLOTHING
Wear light colored clothing to more easily spot “questing” ticks. Tuck long pants into socks and shirts into pants to minimize their access to your skin.

MAKE IT HARD FOR THEM

Stay to the center of hiking trails & avoid walking through tall grass and bushy areas. Don’t make it easy for them. Avoid bushwhacking, when possible, through the oak and dense underbrush.

PETS: PERFECT TRANSPORTATION. PERFECT HOSTS.

Protect your pets too! Dogs, cats and livestock are susceptible to tick-borne diseases.

Does you dog love to sneak up to your child’s bed or your sofa for a quick nap? Check your pets for ticks after going out in a tick-prone trail before your pet can transport ticks into your home.

TICK CHECKS
Check along the hairline, nape of neck, inside & behind ears, armpits, groin, behind the knees, inside the belly button and between toes. Some ticks are as small as a poppy seed so check thoroughly.

Check your pets and gear too. Ticks can hitchhike on fabric or fur, increasing exposure to others in vehicles, homes or workplace.

Place outdoor exposed clothing directly into dryer on high heat for 10-20 minutes to kill ticks that may be clinging to the fabric. Most likely, that clothing is dirty from having fun, so drop it right into the wash before clinging ticks have a chance to crawl other places you don’t want them.

We are assuming you were out for some fun and sweaty recreation if you need to check for ticks. Obviously the shower is the perfect time and place to find them.

PROPER TICK REMOVAL
Always use fine-tipped tweezers or a tool that does not twist the tick and firmly grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.

With a steady motion, pull straight up! DO NOT twist, crush or jerk the tick as this may agitate the tick and increase the chance of disease transmission.

Thoroughly wash hands and the bite area with soap and water or an alcohol based sanitizer. Sanitize tweezers as well!

Take a close look at the tick – is it soft or hard? What is it’s coloration and markings? Almost all ticks in Colorado are the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick. Thankfully, these do not carry Lyme disease in Colorado.

Never use bare fingers, petroleum jelly, hot match, nail polish, essential oils or other topical products to remove a tick. These methods may increase the risk of disease transmission. We always think of the hot match trick for getting ticks out. But apparently it’s one old wive’s tale that wasn’t the best idea.

DISEASE: WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR

Don’t panic, the chances of contracting a tick-borne disease in Colorado are low. The longer a tick stays attached and is feeding, the greater the chances of disease transmission.

COLORADO TICK FEVER
Colorado Tick Fever is the most common illness caused by ticks in Colorado. It is caused by a virus and produces symptoms similar to the flu.

LYME DISEASE
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection. Signs include a fever and aches, similar to the flu, and a circular rash at the site of the bite. It is not endemic in Colorado!

ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a bacterial infection. Most cases actually occur in the Southern U.S. not the Rocky Mountains! While there has been an uptick (pardon the pun) in Arizona and New Mexico, it is not widespread in Colorado. A fever, rash, headache and aches are symptoms of RMSF. It is very serious and should be treated with antibiotics immediately.

Learn more at the Colorado State University Extension website. They have more information about ticks in Colorado than you really want to know.

About Lauren Suhrbier

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