How to protect yourself during tick season in Iowa

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DES MOINES, Iowa — As we start to spend more time outside this summer, it’s important to be on the lookout for ticks.

Donald Lewis is an extension entomologist at Iowa State University and studies insects and other creepy crawlers like ticks. He says there’s not good enough census data to predict how bad a tick season can be, that’s why he encourages people to always be cautious.

“Ticks vary greatly from place to place and from year to year, and the woodland that you’re walking in may have a lot of them this year because of circumstances in that geographic area, whereas the next woodland over may not have as many,” Lewis explains. “So there’s a certain luck of the draw for what you will encounter in the woodlands and in the landscapes when you’re out and about and have the potential of encountering ticks.”

Lewis says people should expect ticks in wooded areas with moisture, high vegetation, and lots of wildlife. He points out there are three different kinds of ticks in Iowa, and they thrive in the humid weather that we see in the spring and early summer. 

Lewis says the best preventative measures people can take are avoiding tick habitats, as well as wearing insect repellent and appropriate clothes so your skin isn’t as exposed.

“Our best action is to be aware if we’ve been in a tick habitat,” Lewis advises. “Look for ticks as soon as we come in, shower as soon as you can when you’ve been outside in a tick-like area, and check very carefully for ticks before they have a chance to embed in your skin.”

Lewis says it’s important to be diligent as some tick bites can lead to Lyme disease. One sign of that is the bullseye rash. If you suspect symptoms of Lyme disease, you should call your healthcare provider.

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