I…I don’t like ticks. Sure, they are fascinating arachnids with their complicated life cycles and telescoping barbed mouthparts that resemble some kind of sinister medieval sword. There’s just something about them that scares me. Perhaps it’s the way they creepily hang out in wooded areas or on tall blades of grass with their front legs spread out waiting for an unsuspecting victim to wander by. Maybe it’s the way they stealthily sneak around your body being undetected until settling on an exposed area of skin to begin feeding. Or that they slowly insert their barbaric mouthparts into your skin without you feeling it and begin engorging themselves, taking in up to 600 times their body weight of your blood, a process that can last for days before dislodging and heading back to their retreats.
No… it’s not any of that. Ticks scare me because of the side effects from that process that can potentially occur. They can transmit some pretty nasty diseases. OK, so they pale in comparison to the number of diseases spread by mosquitoes. Believe me, I don’t get a warm fuzzy feeling over them either, but most of the deadly diseases spread by mosquitoes occur in other countries. I’m being a bit self-serving in my reasoning. Sure we have some here to worry about such as West Nile virus and Zika (which is serious for pregnant women) but for most people, the symptoms are rather mild and death from them is pretty rare. Tick-borne illnesses typically don’t result in many deaths but they can lead to lots of pain and suffering.
Babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and Lyme disease are just a few examples of the illnesses caused by tick bites. Symptoms of these diseases may not occur for several days after feeding but can last for many years. There’s even a new tick-borne illness causing some concern called Powassan disease. It’s not something you want to get either. There’s even a disease they can transmit that leads to the victim developing a serious allergy to red meat. Yikes! Also, there is this funny thing called tick paralysis. Some people, and pets, slowly develop paralysis while the tick is feeding. If the tick is not found and removed it will lead to death, but once removed recovery from the paralysis is almost instantaneous. CRAZY! (For more information on tick-borne diseases visit the CDC website: www.cdc.gov/ticks/diseases)
So, all of these creepy crazy things ticks do is why I don’t really like them very much. In case you’re like me and want to avoid tangling with them here are some tips on prevention:
- Ticks mostly hang out in wooded or tall grassy areas. Avoid ticks by staying home. If the allure of the great outdoors is too much to stay inside then take precautions when venturing out. If you’re going to visit an area where ticks might be hanging out, be sure to use plenty of insect repellent. Apply to all areas not covered with clothing. Once you return do a thorough body check for ticks. Ticks like to attach themselves to hidden areas like armpits, waistline, behind ears, and under hair.
- If a tick is found use tweezers to grab it by the head and slowly work it out of the skin. Be careful as you don’t want to risk the mouthparts breaking off under the skin as this can lead to an infection. The good news is that most tick-borne diseases are not transferred until after several hours of feeding. Therefore the sooner the tick is discovered and removed the better off you are.
- Dogs will get ticks when they venture into certain areas and bring them back home. If you do have dogs be sure to keep them on a veterinary prescribed tick prevention medication. Also, be sure to regularly examine them for ticks and carefully remove them when found.
- Good lawn maintenance will help keep ticks out of your yard. Be sure to keep grass cut, bushes trimmed, and remove clutter.
- If your yard borders a field or wooded area that you suspect has ticks, treating the perimeter of the yard with an appropriate pesticide will help keep them from wandering onto your property. Ask your Terminix professional about this service.
- Wildlife, such as deer, can bring ticks into your yard. Use fencing or other methods to keep them out. Consult with a Terminix wildlife expert for tips on keeping animals out of your yard.
What should you do if you are bitten by a tick?
- Once the tick is completely removed with tweezers, wash the affected area with antibacterial soap.
- Place the tick in a small ziplock bag or pill container along with a note of the date it was removed. Keep the tick in the freezer in case symptoms of an illness begin to occur.
- If you begin to experience symptoms such as fever, numbness, muscular or joint pain, chills, or confusion go see your doctor and take the tick with you. Also, if you develop a rash or swelling at the site of the bite.