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Ticks: What You Need to Know

Ticks: What You Need to Know

Ticks are arthropods (invertebrates with external skeletons and jointed legs) that belong to a special group of mites. They find their hosts by detecting animals´ breath and body odors, or by sensing body heat, moisture, and vibrations. Identifying well-used paths, ticks pick a place to wait for a host, resting on the tips of grasses and shrubs.

While questing, ticks hold onto leaves and grass by their third and fourth pair of legs. Their first pair of legs are outstretched. When a host (person or animal) brushes the spot where a tick is waiting, it quickly climbs aboard.

 Ticks transmit disease through the feeding process:

·         When the tick finds a feeding spot, it grasps the skin and cuts into the surface

·         It then inserts its feeding tube, which is kept in place by barbs or a cement-like substance

·         Ticks secrete saliva with anesthetic properties so that the animal or person can't feel that the tick has attached itself

·         Ticks will suck the blood slowly for several days. If the host animal has a bloodborne disease, the tick will ingest the organism with the blood

·         Small amounts of saliva from the tick may enter the skin of the host during the feeding process. If the tick contains a disease, the organism may be transmitted to the host in this way

·         After feeding, most ticks will drop off

 Removing a Tick

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

3.      After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water

4.      Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet

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

 Preventing Tick Bites

Before You Go Outdoors

·         Know where to expect ticks: grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or on animals

·         Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing, and camping gear and remain protective through several washings

·         Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone

·         Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old

·         Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old

Avoid Contact

·         Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter

·         Walk in the center of trails

·         Wear light-colored clothing so you can see ticks easier

·         Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and shoes that cover the entire foot

·         Tuck pant legs into socks or shoes, and tuck shirts into pants

After You Come Indoors

·         Check your clothing (and pets) for ticks

·         Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes

·         If your clothes require washing first, use hot water

·         Shower within 2 hours after being outdoors. (This has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease)

·         Check your entire body for ticks

Common Tickborne Diseases include:

·         Babesiosis: blacklegged tick

·         Ehrlichiosis: lone star tick

·         Lyme disease: blacklegged tick. For Lyme disease to be transmitted, a tick needs to feed on the host for 24-48 hours

·         Rocky Mountain spotted fever: American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, brown dog tick

·         Tularemia: dog tick, wood tick, lone star tick

 Symptoms of Tickborne Illness:

·         Fever/chills

·         Headache, fatigue, muscle aches, and joint pain

·         Rash: bullseye appearance or skin ulcer

Tickborne diseases can result in mild symptoms treatable at home to severe infections requiring hospitalization. Although easily treated with antibiotics, these diseases can be difficult to diagnose. Early recognition and treatment of the infection decreases the risk of serious complications.

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