Nebraska outdoorsmen and women have been out and about in the last several weeks, fully engulfed in bow season. While you’re in your blinds or tree stands hunting a trophy whitetail – or trekking through brush to track your prized antelope or elk — chances are you’re also the prey, thanks to mosquitos, ticks and chiggers.

Until temperatures drop and a frost settles on the landscape, you’re likely stuck with the aggravating pests that buzz and crawl around you. According to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, ticks are more commonly found until temperatures drop below freezing, when their population will fall off. This means that you will likely be seeing ticks until firearm season later this fall.

Do you know how to best protect yourself from insects or the diseases they may carry? Here’s what you need to know.

Protect Yourself: Prevention Tips for Ticks, Chiggers and Mosquitos

Clothing Considerations
Fortunately, when it comes to hunting, most archers are covered in some form of camouflage clothing, even if it’s lightweight garb for early in the season. But it is just that – early season – and it can be humid and warm in the mornings and evenings. You may be tempted to push your sleeves up or forgo a face and neck mask for the chance to cool off, but try to resist and keep those sleeves down and face mask on, otherwise you run the risk of exposing your skin to mosquitos and other insect bites.

It’s especially important to stay covered to protect against ticks. Ticks are known to carry bacterial diseases like Lyme disease. And though chiggers (a small mite that burrows under your skin) are not known to spread disease, they can cause a painful, itchy rash – and when there is itching, there’s a chance of infection as dirt and bacteria from under your fingernails can get into open cuts, scrapes and bites.

It’s also important to be mindful of what repellents and sprays you use so that you don’t give your position away to deer downwind. Harsh chemical sprays won’t entice the deer to your food plots. A good alternative, though, is treating your clothing and gear with products containing permethrin, as it can effectively kill ticks and keep away from your boots and clothing. And if you’re still looking for a spray, consider using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents that contain DEET or picaridin. Consider these couple clothing-based tips to keep yourself protected:

  • Tuck your pant legs into your socks before putting your boots on. It’ll help keep the ticks and chiggers from making it to your ankles. And speaking of boots, consider high boots like rubber or Muck boots to help keep ticks at bay since they’re often found on leaf litter or low brush.
  • While you’re tucking your socks in, tuck your shirt into your pants to help ticks from reaching your skin. Both steps are also especially important for chiggers, as they’re commonly found in clusters around your lower legs and waist.

Do a Full Body Check
When you return home, check your clothing and body for ticks, especially the groin, armpit and scalp areas. On average, ticks must remain attached for 36-48 hours before they can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease – so the timely removal of ticks can be a critical step in preventing the disease.

If you do find a tick on you, we recommend visiting a healthcare professional so that it can be removed properly and completely. Sometimes a tick head can burrow deeply in the skin and a healthcare professional can make sure that it’s entirely removed. They can also gauge how engorged the insect is, which may also shed some light on how long it’s been embedded.

However, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does provide guidelines for tick removal, beginning with the use of fine-tipped tweezers. Grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible, use even pressure to pull the tick straight out. Thoroughly clean the bite are with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Study Up On Insect-Borne Illnesses

Most tick bites are harmless and don’t cause any noticeable symptoms. However, ticks can carry bacterial diseases. Tick-borne illnesses include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Powassan virus.

Lyme disease is one of the most commonly-associated diseases with ticks. Early-stage symptoms include fever, muscle aches and fatigue, making the condition easy to confuse with the flu. However, if not addressed immediately, the disease can cause memory loss, mood swings, difficulty concentrating and sleep issues.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which is more commonly found in states east of the Rocky Mountains, has similar symptoms – fever, chills, and aches and pains.

As for the Powassan virus, it’s pretty rare, and occurs primarily in the northeastern part of the country and near the Great Lakes. The virus can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord).

Though mosquitos are known for their itchy bites, they would also be carrying West Nile virus. This can generally cause malaise, fever headache and vomiting. More serious complications could be present in more severe cases.

Bottom line, those pesky insects can put a damper on your early season hunt and aren’t to be taken lightly. Be mindful of what you’re wearing, when skin is exposed, and how you feel when you’re out among Nebraskan woods and fields this fall.

Dr. Julie Waddell, MD, is an area medical director for MedExpress Urgent Care. She completed her undergraduate studies and medical school at the University of Iowa. Though born and raised in Northeast Iowa, where she says the deer are almost as big as those in the Big Red State, Dr. Waddell now lives in Nebraska with her husband and two children.

MedExpress Urgent Care offers a wide range of urgent care, employer health and basic wellness and prevention services, including more advanced offerings such as X-rays, IVs, labs, minor surgery, stitches and treatment for broken bones and sprains. Centers are open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with no appointments necessary. MedExpress has centers in Nebraska in the following cities: Fremont, Grand Island, La Vista, Lincoln, Norfolk and Omaha.