Tick season underway in Missouri

Related Story

COLUMBIA - Ticks are out in full force around Missouri.

While the tiny bugs may seem harmless, their bites could make you sick if not treated properly. To reduce the risk of catching a tick-borne illness, a first step is to avoid contact with the bugs. 

Shawn Gruber, Missouri Department of Conservation Protection Program Coordinator, provided the following tips to minimize and handle interactions with ticks:

1) Wear repellent. Gruber said DEET-based repellent works the best.

2) Wear long sleeves and tuck pant legs into boots. "If you really want to get serious about it you could take some duct tape and tape your pants to your boots to provide a physical barrier to prevent ticks from getting to your skin," he said.

3) Take a shower once you return from the woods and remove ticks as soon as possible. Gruber said, "The best way to remove them is to take a pair of tweezers and get them as close to the skin as you possibly can and pull the tick out."

On their website, the Lyme Disease Association said improper tick removal increases the risk of getting a tick-borne infection. This is because methods like squeezing the tick can aggravate the bug and provoke it to inject bacteria that can lead to an infection. 

Gruber said the CDC and Missouri Department of Health and Human Services do not recommend using gasoline or matches to drive ticks out.

The Lyme Disease Association lists the following steps to remove a tick correctly:

1) Pull the tick straight up and out with tweezers

2) Use antiseptic to clean the area of skin

3) Disinfect tweezers and wash hands thoroughly.

For some people, a pair of tweezers may not be enough to treat a tick bite. Gruber said to contact your doctor immediately if you get a fever or feel sick within days of a tick bite. He said most tick-borne illnesses can be treated if found soon enough.