Mother Nature often provides a glimpse of her sense of humor: For many people in the United States, this time it comes as an extended summer, but with a caveat – tics, mites, mosquitoes and fleas have an extended active period right along with the mild temperatures.
If you live in an area of the United States that usually requires winter coats this time of year, but are experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures, the extended summer comes at a price. Many people throughout the Midwest portion of the country, but especially Kansas City, Kansas, are experiencing first hand the toll oak mites present in the continuing warm weather.
Kansas City is the epicenter of the oak itch mite infestation, first noted in 1990 when the mites found a home there, imported from central Europe. One or two solid freezes are needed before the mites will be gone, something that’s usually happened in Kansas and much of the Midwest before the final week of October.
In Kansas, the warm weather is predicted to last until at least mid-November, meaning that leaf-raking season will likely be yet warm enough that the oak itch mites will still be an issue.
The oak itch mites, found mainly pin oak trees and red oak trees, live inside the galls of the oak leaves throughout the summer months, feeding on larvae inside the gall. In the fall, not only do acorns fall from oak trees, but so do the itch mites – microscopically small, eight-legged creatures.
Coming in direct contact with the falling or fallen leaves, such as when mowing or raking increases a person’s chances of coming into contact with the itch mites, but the tiny creatures also literally fall from trees and are blown in the wind.
Preventing Contact With Oak Itch Mites
Insect repellants with DEET may or may not be effective in preventing bites from the itch mites, but authorities advise the best defense is to cover up your skin as much as possible. If you think you’ve come into contact with itch mites, remove your clothing when back indoors and shower, scrubbing lightly to remove any possible mites.
Symptoms of Oak Itch Mites Bites
The tiny creatures’ bites pack a powerful itch with the development red, rashlike welts that may become fluid-filled and/or pimple-like and may last two weeks or more.
The use of over-the-counter topical anti-itch creams or oral antihistamines may help control the itching.
Seek the advice of your health care professional if the mite bites become infected due to scratching or rubbing on clothing, or if the itch persists without relief.
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