Do We Have to Worry About Ticks in Utah?

Article at-a-glance

  • Due to climate change, confirmed cases of Lyme disease have increased here in Utah.
  • Guarding against ticks when spending time in the outdoors prevents illnesses that can occur with even a single bite.
  • If you find your child has a tick, take care in removing it and treating the area.

Utahns have long thought themselves safe from Lyme disease via ticks due to our long, cold winters. However, because of climate change, this may no longer be the case. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) reports of confirmed cases of Lyme disease here have increased. As the winter temperatures edge up, more ticks survive to breed the following spring.

What Kind of Ticks Should I be Worried About?

Ticks are insects that don’t usually bother us until they burrow their heads in our skin to feed on our blood. Most are harmless, but since some spread diseases, all ticks must be removed.

There are two main types of ticks to guard against, with a sizable difference between them. The common dog tick is an eight-legged insect with a small round abdomen. These are easy to find and mostly brush off before they burrow into the skin.  On the other hand, the deer tick is tiny and harder to spot. These are the dangerous ticks that can carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Colorado tick fever. If the tick is carrying any of these, a single bite can be enough to cause illness.

“We’ve partnered with the Utah State Pest Diagnostic Lab in years past to conduct tick surveillance reports for us and we’ve found a species that is capable of carrying Lyme…we could have ticks transmitting Lyme here in the state, however it is not as prevalent as we would see on the east coast.”

Dallin Peterson with Utah State Epidemiology

What Does a Tick Bite Look Like?

Tick bites can be mild with only signs of redness around the area. Infected bites may develop a bulls-eye rash that can take days, weeks, or even a month to appear. Watch out for flu-like symptoms (headache, fever, swollen glands, stiff neck, and general fatigue). These symptoms suggest Lyme disease.

Your kids may not get a tick bite in Utah, but they could come home with one from a vacation. The CDC says these 14 states are the most tick-infested: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

How Do I Remove a Tick?

If you do find a tick with its head dug into your child’s skin, here’s how to remove it:

  • If possible, clean the affected area with alcohol.
  • Use clean tweezers and grab the tick close to your skin. Pull it straight out.
  • Try not to crush or squeeze the tick as this can release toxins.
  • If the tick is tiny (like a deer tick), scrape it off the skin with a blunt object, such as a plastic credit card or a Tick Key.
  • Once the tick is removed, clean the bite area with soap and water.
  • Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment.

How Can We Avoid Tick Bites?

Ticks are most active from March to mid-July, and especially during rains.  If you plan to enjoy nature during these times, take these steps to stay safe:

  • Avoid grassy, bushy areas along edges of woodlands and fields.
  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when hiking through tick- infested areas.
  • Check clothing and packs for ticks hitching a ride indoors.
  • Apply tick repellant (DEET) before hiking or nature walks.
  • Conduct skin checks after time outdoors – especially skin folds like behind knees, groin area, belly button, etc.

And most importantly, always call your pediatrician if you have any questions, concerns, or want help removing a tick.

Reviewed on August 19, 2019 by: Jonathen Bartholomew, D.O.
Jonathen Bartholomew, D.O.
Board-certified Pediatrician

As a pediatrician and father of six kids, Dr. Bartholomew has a lot of experience with twins and premature infants. In addition to getting to know his patient families, he enjoys the great outdoors, Dr. Seuss, and BYU football.

Cherry Tree Office
Full Bio

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