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Tick and mosquito season is here: IU experts share tips to avoid the diseases they spread

As temperatures rise and the days get longer, it’s lovely to spend time outdoors. But it’s important to remember that humans aren’t the only ones who get more active outside in the spring and summer.

Crawling in the grass or hovering in the air are ticks and mosquitoes ready and waiting to make you or your family, friends and pets their next meal. Bites from mosquitoes and ticks aren’t just itchy; they can cause serious illnesses if the insect is carrying a disease.

Mosquito-borne illnesses are the cause of thousands of deaths worldwide each year due to diseases like malaria and West Nile virus. Ticks can also carry life-threatening illnesses like Lyme disease. The peak risk for Lyme disease in Indiana is around Memorial Day each year.

“We now have more ticks and their diseases in more places, as well as longer active seasons, all thanks to our changing climate,” said Graham McKeen, director for public and environmental health at Indiana University. “Therefore, it is clear we all need to self-monitor and take basic measures to protect ourselves.”

Many variables influence the numbers of disease-carrying insects, so it’s hard to predict their populations year to year. What we can do is control how we respond to them.

“The more you know, the safer you are,” Lame said. “It’s that time of year, and we’re out in their environment, and we just need to be aware.”

Whether you’re staying in Indiana or taking a vacation away from home, it’s important to protect yourself by preventing bites and monitoring yourself for symptoms if you do get bitten.

Reduce the risk of tick- and mosquito-borne illness by:

  • Wearing EPA-registered insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  • Removing sources of standing water where mosquitoes lay eggs. A source as small as a bottlecap of water can be an egg-laying site for mosquitoes.
  • Staying in the center of cleared paths or trails when walking or hiking to avoid brushing against tall grass and plants.
  • Wearing long sleeves and pants if possible; tuck pant legs into socks and wear light-colored clothing.
  • Mowing your lawn frequently and placing wood chips or gravel between your lawn and wooded areas to restrict ticks from migrating into recreational spaces.
  • Checking for ticks and/or showering shortly after being in areas with potential high-tick activity, as it generally takes attached ticks 24 to 48 hours to transmit a disease.
  • Removing ticks quickly if attached to you by using clean, fine-tipped tweezers or your fingers if tweezers aren’t available. Grab the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible, and then pull upward with steady, even pressure.

If you have been in areas with high tick or mosquito activity or have experienced a recent bite, self-monitor for symptoms for up to 30 days. If you experience aches, pains, fatigue, fever or chills, or develop an unexplained rash, follow up with your health care provider and inform them of your potential recent exposure.

Using these methods and others can help prevent mosquito and tick bites and reduce the spread of diseases.

More information about pests and steps you can take to protect yourself and others is available on the Protect IU website.

Mary Keck is communications manager for IU Public Safety.