Ticks 101

We’ve all heard the stories of people catching horrible diseases from ticks that went unnoticed until it was too late. As you enjoy the warm weather, it is important to be aware of the threat posed by ticks. Here’s what you need to know in order to avoid ticks, how to find them, and how to remove them.

ticks
(Source: CDC)

Quick Facts:

  1. They do not fly or jump and usually wait, at about ankle height, for an animal to walk by so they can grab on.
  2. Nymphs are extremely small and hard to see. Therefore, they pose the greatest threat to humans.
  3. Ticks seek warm areas such as the armpits, hair, and waistline.
  4. Blacklegged ticks (or deer ticks) are the only type that carry Lyme disease.
  5. Many types of diseases are carried by ticks, if you have been bitten, keep the tick for your doctor to help narrow down the search.
  6. It usually takes a tick 24-48 hours of feeding to transmit diseases, such as Lyme disease, to their victim.
  7. Ticks are arachnids, not insects.

Minimizing the Risk:

  1. Avoid thick vegetation by staying in the middle of paths.
  2. Use bug spray with at least 20% DEET. I understand the draw to avoid chemicals and use natural substitutes, but DEET is the most effective way to avoid being bitten. Spray all exposed areas, such as ankles and wrists, with a little extra to keep ticks from crawling under your clothing. It is best to use DEET on skin as well as Permethrin on clothing. Use this tool to find the right repellent for you and your family.
  3. Long pants, sleeves, and socks are essential. Avoid having any excess skin exposure.
  4. Check this map to find out what ticks, and therefore what diseases, to watch for in your area.
  5. Be extra vigilant during warm months, as ticks are most active from April-September.

Finding Ticks:

  1. After being outdoors, shower ASAP. This will help wash away ticks that has not latched on yet.
  2. Do a full body tick check.
    1. Start with a visual inspection using a mirror to check your back, neck, etc.
    2. Next, lightly and slowly run your fingernails over you entire body. Focus specifically on your armpits, between toes, back of knees, ears, groin, and especially your hair. It is also important to check your children, pets, and gear.
  3. Wash your clothes with hot water and tumble dry with high heat.

Removing Ticks:

If you find a tick, don’t panic. Here is how the CDC recommends removing them.

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  4. Dispose of a live tick by submerging it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.

Follow-Up: If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.

If you find yourself in a tick infested area, take the right precautions and you shouldn’t have any lasting issues. Use your best judgement and enjoy your time in the great outdoors!

Happy hiking!

-Michael J. Flora

 

Related Reading and Resources:

https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/

https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/resources/tickbornediseases.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html

https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html

http://www.tickencounter.org/prevention/top_ten_things_list

http://www.pestworld.org/news-hub/pest-articles/interesting-tick-facts/

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