BTB 52: Tick Season
Published on: Monday 13th July 2020
A common myth about ticks is that they die once a frost occurs. The truth is that ticks live all year round, and have a life cycle of two to three years. During the winter months, they will find shelter in deep snow-covered leaves or brush. Although ticks live year-round, they do become most active in warm, humid weather.
Ticks do not fly or jump. Rather, they will climb onto a human or animal by waiting on grass, leaves or any other type of plant. They survive by feeding on the blood of humans or animals, and are able to sense when a host is nearby, and when to latch on. The danger with ticks is that they can spread diseases such as Lyme disease from animals to humans that they bite.
What to look for
Although there are hundreds of tick species, only a few transmit disease. The three most common groups are black-legged ticks (including the deer tick), dog ticks and lone star ticks. All three of these species are red or reddish brown and range in size from approximately 5 to 15 mm (0.25 to 0.5 in) in length.
Tick bites are usually painless. For this reason, it is important to check for ticks after being in wooded areas or tall grass. Unlike other bugs that bite, ticks will remain attached to the body for up to ten days before detaching themselves and falling off. Once a tick is on a person’s body, they will usually look for a warm spot before biting and drawing blood. The main areas of the body to check are shown on the facing page.
It may be necessary to use a mirror or have someone assist in checking all areas. It is also recommended to shower as soon as possible after being in wooded areas.
Removing a tick
If a tick is found on the body, it is important to remove it right away. The longer a tick is left on the host’s body, the further it may dig into the skin, thus making removal more difficult. It may also increase the risk of disease transmission, although it is possible to contract Lyme disease in less than 24 hours.
Care must be taken when removing a tick from the skin so that the whole tick is removed intact and no parts are left in the skin.
To properly remove a tick, the following steps must be taken:
- Using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull upward on the tick using steady even pressure. Jerking or twisting the tick may result in breaking it, leaving the mouthparts in the skin. If this happens, remove the parts (as much as possible) with clean tweezers.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol, iodine, or soap and water.
- Place the tick in a sealed plastic bag and put it in the freezer – it may be useful later for diagnosis if symptoms appear. After removing the tick, several photographs should be taken of the bite area, as well as the tick. If the tick bite occurred during work hours, it should be reported to a manager or supervisor immediately.
When to see a doctor
After removing a tick, the bite area should be monitored for up to 30 days for any signs of infection. Medical attention should be sought if any of the following symptoms occur:
- BULLS-EYE RASH
A round or oval rash more than 5 cm (2 in) that spreads outward like a bull’s-eye
- ANY TYPE OF RASH
- FEVER CHILLS
- HEADACHE STIFF NECK
- MUSCLE ACHES AND JOINT PAINS
More tired than usual
- SWOLLEN LYMPH NODES
- SPASMS, NUMBNESS OR TINGLING
- FACIAL PARALYSIS
Tick bite prevention
Avoiding any tick to skin contact is the best way to prevent tick bites. Wearing pants that have an elastic or Velcro cuff around the boots will help keep ticks off of legs. Duct tape wrapped around the cuff and boots may also be used. Long sleeves, jackets, or rainwear will also help to keep ticks off the body in tall vegetation. Using an insect repellant containing at least twenty percent DEET will also deter ticks. Follow the manufacturer’s directions and apply it frequently.
After being in wooded areas, it is important to shake out over clothing to prevent any ticks from entering vehicles, homes, or offices. Check all parts of the exposed clothing including cuffs and in loose areas. Keep outerwear such as rain gear and jackets in a tote and store in the back of your pickup truck.
We’ve all learned a little more lately about the potential impact of viruses on people, society and the economy. Common sense and an ounce of prevention can greatly reduce the risk of acquiring some nasty viral infections transmitted by ticks.