LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Warm weather is back in Arkansas, and with it comes the onslaught of biting insects.
Emily G. McDermott, an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the University of Arkansas Fayetteville offered up a few pointers on how Natural State residents could avoid getting bit this season, as well as what to do if the worst happens.
The best thing, McDermott said, is to wear a Centers for Disease Control-recommended insect repellent such as DEET. She said this would protect against all biting insects, but especially in tick-prone areas, where wearing clothing treated with the repellent is essential.
McDermott explained that scrubby or grassy areas make good tick habitats and suggested hikers try to stay on marked and worn paths and avoid brushing up against vegetation on the sides of the path to steer clear of the blood-sucking pests.
Another tip McDermott has for those heading outdoors is to think about the color of what they are wearing. Someone could be subject to more bites if they are in something that is black or blue. Some insects, like horse and deer flies, are attracted to dark colors.
The good news is most insects do not use sight to track down a meal, so clothing will only make a slight difference, McDermott said.
Once the trip outside is done, the professor said it is important hikers check themself carefully once home to ensure no ticks have found a place on their bodies.
If someone finds a tick on them, they should remove it right away using tweezers, McDermott advised. She suggests using tweezers to grab the tick at its head and then pulling it straight up before washing the area where the tick was found with soap and water.
A tick bite probably will not need medical attention, but if a rash forms at the spot of the bite or the area starts to look infected, it is time to see a doctor, McDermott said. If the bite gets itchy, treat it with antihistamine cream. This treatment also applies to mosquito bites.
Speaking of mosquitos, the time of day matters to avoid bites. One of the most common mosquitoes in Arkansas is the Asian tiger mosquito, which is most active in the afternoons. Other mosquito breeds are only active at night. The best time to avoid mosquitoes is in the morning hours, McDermott said.
McDermott also offered two final tips to prevent issues with ticks and mosquitoes this summer.
First, Arkansans should remove any standing water around their homes frequently. The professor said mosquitoes love standing water and the insect can go from an egg to an adult in just a couple of days.
Her last tip was for people to make sure their pets are up to date on prevention medications. If not, a dog or cat and bring a tick inside the home.