Tick Season in Arkansas
Ticks bites are a common occurrence in Arkansas warm weather.
Hot Springs, Ark. – Tick season is a yearly event in Arkansas.
Warm weather arrival in Arkansas also means arrival of tick season. Cold harsh winters in Arkansas have little effect on tick populations. Tick species found in Arkansas are adapted to survive harsh winters. Some species survive the winters in leaf litter, soil and other protected sites while a few others may survive the winter on their host.
Arkansas is well known for its abundance of ticks and its fair share of tick-borne diseases. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia and anaplasmosis are reported nearly every year in Arkansas. Of these illnesses, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis are the most frequently reported tick-borne diseases in the state.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is the most prevalent and severe tick-borne disease in Arkansas. The causal agent of RMSF is the rickettsial bacterium, Rickettsia rickettsia, which is primarily transmitted in Arkansas through the bite of an infected American dog tick. Early clinical symptoms of RMSF are nonspecific and may resemble a variety of other infectious and noninfectious diseases. Early symptoms may include fever, nausea, vomiting, severe headache, muscle pain and lack of appetite. A rash of small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots on the wrists, forearms and ankles may (or may not) first appear two to five days after the onset of fever. Often the rash varies from this description, and people who fail to develop a rash or who develop an atypical rash are at increased risk of being misdiagnosed. The red to purple, spotted rash of RMSF is usually not seen until the sixth day or later after onset of symptoms and occurs in 35 to 60 percent of patients with the infection. Many people with RMSF do not remember being bitten by a tick.
Ehrlichiosis refers to several human and animal diseases caused by infection with bacteria in the genus Ehrlichia. Human ehrlichiosis occurs primarily in the southeastern and south-central regions of the country and is transmitted by the lone star tick, Amblyomma americanum, one of the most abundant ticks found in Arkansas. Human ehrlichiosis symptoms vary from mild to severe and may include fever, headache, malaise and muscle ache. Rashes are uncommon with adult ehrlichiosis patients; however, about 60 percent of pediatric patients may develop a rash. Ehrlichiosis is a serious illness that can be fatal if not treated correctly, even in previously healthy people. Prompt antibiotic treatment is advised for patients suspected of having ehrlichiosis.
Lyme disease is spread through the bite of the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) infected with thespirochete bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi. The tick bite is painless, so most victims do not know they have been bitten. Although the spirochete bacterium responsible for Lyme disease has been found in deer, canines and ticks in Arkansas, the risk of acquiring this disease in Arkansas is currently considered low. Arkansas Department of Health authorities indicate that Lyme disease is not native to Arkansas, but individuals traveling to Midwestern and Northeastern states could become infected. Lyme disease symptoms often imitate the symptoms of many other diseases. Lyme disease symptoms also appear in stages. The classic sign of the early stage, which begins a few days to a few weeks after the bite of an infected tick, is a slowly expanding red rash that may fade in the center as it spreads away from the tick bite location. It is often described as looking like a bull’s-eye with alternating light and dark rings. However, it can vary from a reddish blotchy appearance to red throughout. Other early symptoms may include flu-like symptoms, such as mild headaches, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, stiff and painful muscles and joints, fatigue and low fever. If any of these symptoms appear, seek prompt medical attention.
Tips to Avoid Tick Bites:
1. Avoid tick-infested areas when possible. Tick-infested areas may include dense vegetation or tall grass, and the “edge” between open and forested areas.
2. Use tick repellents and apply according to label instructions. Insect repellents containing DEET (on clothing only) and repellents containing permethrin are most commonly used.
3. Find and remove ticks. (A) Check yourself, your children and pets frequently for ticks. (B) Wear light-colored clothing when in tick infested areas, as dark ticks are more easily spotted against a light background. (C) After returning home, thoroughly inspect yourself with aid of a mirror. (D) Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair. (E) Bathe or shower as soon as possible after returning from a tick infested area to wash off crawling ticks and locate attached ticks.
4. Promptly remove ticks when found. If a tick is removed within a few hours after attachment, the chance of that tick transmitting a pathogen is greatly reduced. (A) Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. (B) Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth-parts easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal. (C) After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water. (D) Examine gear. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats and day packs. (E) Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks. (Some research suggests that shorter drying times may also be effective, particularly if the clothing is not wet.)
5. Create a tick-safe zone in your yard. (A) Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns. (B) Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment. This will restrict tick migration into recreational areas. (C) Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked. (D) Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents that ticks feed on). (E) Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees and place them in a sunny location, if possible.
6. Know the symptoms of tick-borne disease. If you become sick and see a healthcare provider, alert them to any tick exposure.
For much more on ticks and the diseases they cause go to our website at www.uaex.edu and search FSA 7047, “Tick-Borne Diseases in Arkansas”.
By Allen Bates
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Allen Bates
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901
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