I know what you’re thinking. You don’t live near the woods or aren’t outdoorsy enough to ever find a tick on yourself or your child. You may only go camping once every couple years or considering trekking through the metropolis in heels a “hike.” You may not categorize yourself as “in touch with Mother Nature” but being in the know about ticks, prevention and treatment regardless of where you live, is important to be smart about.
Read on please because this is info is informative and something you need to know – even if you just store it away for that one time you do go camping or on a vacation and play outdoors.
Tickborn illnesses and the most commonly known, Lyme disease is serious. One single tiny tick, as small as the size of a poppy seed can change the course of you, or your child’s health unless you catch and remove it quick enough.
TICKS & WHAT TO LOOK FOR
There are nine kinds of ticks, although three – Blacklegged Tick (aka Deer Tick), Lone Star and the Western Blacklegged Tick bite humans and the rest host on wild animals and dogs.
The greatest risk of being bitten exists in the spring, summer, and fall. However, ticks may be out actively searching for a host any time winter temperatures are above freezing. Ticks are as small as poppy seeds but can grow larger to a sunflower seed / peanut. The size makes them difficult to see and easy to miss – especially in hair and on the scalp.
When a tick lands on the skin, it burrows its mouth under the skin to feed on blood. The tick then can potentially inject infection into the blood stream with Lyme disease, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), ehrlichiosis, and tularemia resulting in distinctive rashes.
Click here to see a full identification of different kinds of ticks.
See the map of types of ticks and locations in the US where they are found.
REMOVAL OF A TICK
- Using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close the surface of the skin as possible. Tick tweezers may be a good investment if you live near heavily infested areas.
- With steady, even pressure, pull upward without twisting or jerking the tick. You don’t want the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin however if this does, you’ll need to use the tweezers again to remove the mouth-parts still in the skin.
- Once you’ve removed the tick from the skin, clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol, soap and water. Wash your hands and try to handle it with gloves on.
- Place the tick in a sealed bag with a note that indicates the date you removed the tick and where you had been that you picked it up. You’ll want to hold onto this in case an symptoms appear and you can produce the tick for a doctor to properly assess the type, carrier of disease, etc.
- Don’t crush a tick with your fingers or hands, always be careful when handling one.
DEET is not an effective tick repellent nor recommended for children. It repels mosquitos, not ticks and only contains 0.5% permethrin which is not enough to be preventative towards ticks.
Permethrin is effective at preventing ticks from attaching to the skin and potentially causing Lyme Disease. Use a Permethrin spray, a clothing-only repellent, kills ticks on contact before they even have a chance to reach a spot where they could attach.
It’s important to note that Permethrin is a neurotoxic and should NEVER be sprayed directly onto skin. It is for clothing only and needs to completely dry before being worn.
Make a dedicated set of outdoors clothing and spray them down with permethrin for coverage and protection. Once permethrin is sprayed on clothing, it becomes odorless and can last for several weeks with a single application. Most ticks will curl up, die and fall off when they are exposed to the Permethrin.
Ticks like to crawl up from below the knees until they get to an area to bit. Be sure to spray socks and shoes and wear protected long pants. If you don’t mind the look, wear knee high socks with your pants or leggings tucked under. White socks are best at showing ticks that are on the socks and trying to crawl up and lighter colored clothing in general makes them easier to spot.
Obviously, weather plays a part in clothing selection, but try to choose long sleeves, hats, pants, tall socks and protective layers to cover susceptible skin areas.
Special designed insect blocking clothing doesn’t need retreatment and may be a more cost-effective option in the long run if you’re outdoors in tick areas often. The University of Rhode Island, advises wearing commercially-treated, permethrin-coated clothing, which last through at least 70 washes. That makes sense for people spending a lot of time outdoors in tick-heavy areas, but for the occasional camper or traveler from other areas might not be worth the investment.
Natural Tick Repellent Recipe:
Shake ingredients well in the spray bottle and then spray onto clothing, hats, shoes and skin (exposed and susceptible to bites or burrowing ticks) before you head outdoors.
For clothing only (not directly sprayed onto skin) added approximately 10 drops of Lemongrass Essential Oil.
CHECKING FOR TICKS WHEN YOU COME INSIDE
Soap & Shower When You Come Inside
When you come inside from being outdoors, since ticks are very difficult to see because they’re tiny – especially in hair and on the scalp – it’s important to jump in the shower and scrub well with soap. If your kids are in the bath, do a thorough inspection of their body and scalp while they splash around.
A good rule of thumb is to do this within two hours of coming inside.
Store Clothes in a Bag & Then Zap Them With Heat
One tip is to put all clothing in a re-sealable bag to potentially contain any ticks. This stops the transport of tick from clothing to skin as well as bringing them inside the house. When you’re ready, throw the clothing in the dryer. The high heat will kill any ticks latched onto clothes.
Pets & Ticks
Be sure to check pets before they come indoors who may have ticks hidden in their fur. You cannot use permethrin on pets and it’s deadly to fish and cats, so be sure to give them a bath and comb through their fur and follow the same procedures of removing ticks as you would a person
SYMPTOMS OF TICK BITES
Information provided by the CDC. The most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses are:
- Flu-Like Symptoms: fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue. With all tickborne diseases, patients can experience fever at varying degrees and time of onset.
- With Lyme disease you may also experience joint pain. The severity and time of onset of these symptoms can depend on the disease and the patient’s personal tolerance level.
- Rash:Lyme disease, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), ehrlichiosis, and tularemia can result in distinctive rashes:
- In Lyme disease, the rash may appear within 3-30 days, typically before the onset of fever. The Lyme disease rash is the first sign of infection and is usually a circular rash called erythema migrans or EM. This rash occurs in approximately 70-80% of infected persons and begins at the site of a tick bite. It may be warm, but is not usually painful. Some patients develop additional EM lesions in other areas of the body several days later.
- The rash of (STARI) is nearly identical to that of Lyme disease, with a red, expanding “bulls eye” lesion that develops around the site of a lone star tick bite. Unlike Lyme disease, STARI has not been linked to any arthritic or neurologic symptoms.
- The rash seen with Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) varies greatly from person to person in appearance, location, and time of onset. About 10% of people with RMSF never develop a rash. Most often, the rash begins 2-5 days after the onset of fever as small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots (macules) on the wrists, forearms, and ankles and spreads to the trunk. It sometimes involves the palms and soles. The red to purple, spotted (petechial) rash of RMSF is usually not seen until the sixth day or later after onset of symptoms and occurs in 35-60% of patients with the infection.
- In the most common form of tularemia, a skin ulcer appears at the site where the organism entered the body. The ulcer is accompanied by swelling of regional lymph glands, usually in the armpit or groin.
- In about 30% of patients (and up to 60% of children), ehrlichiosis can cause a rash. The appearance of the rash ranges from macular to maculopapular to petechial, and may appear after the onset of fever.
Lyme disease is preventable with the proper precautions. Following these tips will help keep your family safe.
Get more information on ticks from the University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center and the Center of Disease Control (CDC.)
For more information about Lyme disease, tick-prevention and the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance (TBDA), please visit www.TBDAlliance.org.
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