Farmers, ranchers and their family members will now be spending more time outdoors with the advent of spring weather. But leaving the safety of indoors, means exposure to ticks, which according to NDSU Extension entomologist, Janet Knodel, is a subject everyone who goes outside needs to be concerned about.

“We have seen an increase in Lyme disease and you can now pick up Rocky Mountain spotted fever, out west mainly,” Knodel said. “Ticks do vector these diseases, and we are always concerned about that.”

Data from the North Dakota Department of Health indicates the growing Lyme disease problem in the state. In 2004, there were no reported cases of Lyme disease in the state, however, since then the number of cases has increased, and in 2017, 56 cases were reported, the highest on record.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that each year more than 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease, and if not treated, serious health problems can occur. Lyme disease can cause circular reddish rash around the tick bite. Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, muscles and/or joint pain. If not treated, more serious health problems can occur, such as meningitis, paralysis of facial muscles or heart problems, and swelling and pain in the large joints

Lyme disease is vectored by the black legged tick, which is also commonly known as the deer tick, Knodel noted. These ticks are very small – about the size of a pinhead when they come out in late spring and early summer, which makes them very hard to see.

 In the Extension publication she authored, Knodel had the following suggestions:

1)      Minimize direct contact with ticks by avoiding woody and high grass areas and walking in center of trails, if possible. Ticks are most active in May through August in North Dakota. Avoiding them sometimes isn’t possible, since growers need to scout fields with tall vegetation or do tasks on range and pasture land.

2)      Use an insect repellent.

3)      Quickly find and remove any ticks from the body by using a tweezers. Grasp tick close to skin and pull straight up to avoid breaking off the tick’s mouthparts in the skin. Clean bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

4)      Inspect and bathe yourself within two hours after coming indoors to find any ticks crawling on you and to remove them before they attach to feed. Ticks like to hide in hair, armpits and other areas that may be difficult to inspect.

5)      Wash any clothing that you were wearing soon and then dry in high heat for an hour to kill any ticks. Otherwise, ticks can attach to you later after hitchhiking on your clothes into home.

Insect repellents

Most insect repellants have used DEET as the active ingredient. However, a new range of health conscious and highly effective insect repellent sprays and lotions are available. The product line, Proven Repellent, utilizes the active ingredient Saltidin (Picaridin), which is recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), World Health Organization and CDC as an effective repellent. A 20 percent concentration of Saltidin is more effective and longer-lasting than the higher concentrations of DEET and non-toxic. This product is made in the USA at EPA-approved factories and it provides 12-14 hours of protection against disease-carrying insects without the concern of harmful side effects that DEET has.

Proven repellents have been tested to effectively repel mosquitos, ticks, black flies, biting flies, stable flies, ants, gnats, chiggers, sand flies and no-see-ums. Recently there has been warranted concern about certain varieties of ticks and mosquitos known to carry deadly and debilitating diseases. Proven repellents protect from species carrying Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya, West Nile Virus, Lyme disease, Powassan Virus and tick-borne Encephalitis.

Saltidin’s molecular structure is modeled after piperidine, a colorless organic compound found in the black pepper plant. While derived from natural and plant-based origins, it’s a manufactured ingredient. Saltidin has near-ideal cosmetic properties and is compatible with skin, textiles, gear and plastic materials. Despite its known efficacy, DEET is a toxic chemical. Proven is non-toxic, gentle on skin and harbors none of the adverse impacts to the nervous system that DEET can have. Additionally, the repellency lasts for 12 hours in the spray and 14 hours in the lotion, so there is limited need for reapplication. For those outdoor enthusiasts worried about their gear, Proven is gear-safe and will not melt or damage plastics like DEET can.

“We understand that many people prefer all-natural products when available. However, if they aren’t effective, the tendency is to return to DEET,” said Emily Dix, operations manager at Proven. “In the current environment, when insect-borne illnesses are on the rise, we wanted to come to the table with a truly effective repellent that was still mindful of health. Something we would want to put on our own bodies and our children’s. When we began developing Proven, we kept coming back to the idea of ‘worry-free outdoor enjoyment.’ Remove the worry of disease, remove the worry of toxic exposure, remove the worry of being pestered and eaten by annoying insects, if nothing else. Enjoy the best parts of being outdoors. The testing and proven efficacy of these products are so solid, and we feel proud and excited to be able to offer this effective alternative to consumers.”

Available in odorless or gently scented formulas, the non-greasy Proven insect repellent sprays and lotions are sold at several outlets or can also be purchased online in a range of sizes at ProvenRepellent.com