Tick ​​remover tool.  Photos provided

A flea crawling inside my camouflage jacket Saturday caught my attention while turkey hunting.

God, they gave me the heebie-jeebies, so I doused my boots, dress, chair, and blinds in high DEET repellant.

For weeks, readers have been reporting bugs. I live freely until Saturday, even if in the fields or woods many times foraging for turkeys and volunteering in the pastures.

I applaud wearing high boots in frequently checked areas. I started after 28 of my personal ticks pulled after a May trip to the Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area. It marked me enough to change my habits.

In 2016, when I walked through the first parcel of Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area with Marianne Hahn, she had a small bottle filled with rubbing alcohol in case a flea bit her.

“Tick-borne diseases can be difficult to diagnose and the availability of ticks, if properly identified, can aid in diagnosis,” he explained last weekend.

Three common ticks in our area are associated with different diseases.

Rocky Mounted Spotted Fever is transmitted by the American dog tick. RMSF “should be treated urgently with doxycycline,” Hahn, a retired microbiologist, emailed.

Black-legged ticks can transmit the organism that causes Lyme disease; it can be treated with antibiotics (previous treatment is best). The lone starfly (southern flea) is becoming more common and can transmit ehrlichiosis, RMSF, or viral heart disease (not treated with antibiotics).

“Don't panic if you get bitten by a tick; a small proportion of ticks carry disease-causing microorganisms,” Hahn emailed. “But remove PROPERLY as soon as possible. . . . Use fine forceps or a flea removal tool, or long fingernails if you have them, to grasp the tick near the skin where it was attached and gently pull upwards: this removes both the tick and the cement the tick used to attach itself.

Flea removal kits are inexpensive.

I also reached out to Carly Mullady Cowan, who, after a long battle with Lyme disease, is involved in advocacy and information.

“Prevention is key,” he said. “We are all locked up for the winter and so excited to be outside again! It doesn't need to be stopped just because of the danger of ticks from another cool winter.

Here are some basic suggestions.

Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to see ticks. (It doesn't help to wear camouflage for hunting.) Some outdoor clothing can be treated with permethrin. Periodically check for ticks on the way out.

Once in an area known for fleas, put the garment in the dryer on high heat for at least six minutes to kill the fleas. The advice comes from study by the National Institutes of Health.

Then, “hurry up the shower and check for anything stray—behind the ears, neck, elbows, knees, hairline, groin area, ankles, etc.,” emails Mullady Cowan.

If any bugs are found, remove them as suggested above.

Lymedisease.org have great resources. The Illinois Department of Health is very practical page about ticks of Illinois.

Wild cast

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