Tick-tock: The time for ticks is reaching its peak

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First you wake up. Then, after a while, you realize you're hungry.

That's how it goes with many people – and ticks, too.

Health Department epidemiologist Elizabeth Schiffman tells WCCO adult ticks start generally start moving when the temperature breaks 40 degrees, so they're out and about by now.

"The peak risk will be in the next week or so," Schiffman says.

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Carolyn Laursen at the Wilderness Waypoint blog notes that while 13 varieties of ticks live in Minnesota, only three are commonly encountered by people: the deer tick, the wood tick, and the brown dog tick.

Laursen calls it lamentable that it's the smallest of those – the deer tick, also called the blacklegged tick (left) – who can carry disease, including Lyme disease. Deer ticks are about the size of a sesame seed.

According to a University of Minnesota page on ticks, their search for warm blood most often leads them to mice or deer, but they can also get attached to humans, other mammals, and birds.

A Health Department map (right) illustrates that Minnesota's ticks are most active in the east-central part of the state, but also have a foothold in the Mississippi River valley.

An MPR News primer on ticks says the blacklegged ones are expanding their range, thanks in part to changes in the climate.

Of course, we humans in Minnesota have also been waiting a long time for this warmer weather ... and most of us won't let ticks keep us from enjoying the outdoors.

Tips for avoiding them include staying on trails when hiking and tucking your pants into your socks. Wearing light clothing makes them easier to spot.

A preschool teacher watching children play at the Dodge Nature Center tells WCCO the kids are interested in ticks when they find them and are not too troubled if one hitches a ride on them.

But the Health Department's Schiffman adds that any Lyme disease symptoms – particularly a rash – should lead to a doctor's visit.

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