Warm weather has hit and summer fun is on the way. However, there is one little nuisance that requires careful attention to avoid hindering your outdoor adventures. It’s called a tick, and even though we’ve all heard of them, you may not realize the dangers of a bite- or that biting you is crucial for a tick to survive. There are four stages in the development of a tick. (I know, how is this relevant?) It’s because after a tick hatches, it must eat blood at every stage in order to survive, so it can take up to 3 years to fully complete the life cycle.
Ticks feed off of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. They can detect animals’ breath and body odors, and can sense body heat, moisture and vibrations. They can’t fly or jump, but instead hold onto leaves and grass by their back legs. They hold their first pair of legs outstretched and when a host brushes the spot where a tick is waiting, it climbs aboard and attaches. Once they find a surface, they cut into the skin’s surface and insert their feeding tube, which can have barbs to help keep it in place. They can also secrete small amounts of saliva with anesthetic properties so you can’t feel that the tick has attached itself, so it’s easy to go unnoticed. A tick will suck blood slowly for several days. If the animal, or host, has an infection, the tick will ingest these pathogens, which can then be transmitted to the new host.
In our area, we have Brown Dog Ticks and Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks.
Brown Dog Ticks carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever which can vary greatly in severity from mild to life threatening if not treated within the first few days. Symptoms include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting and muscle pain. A rash may develop but is often absent in the first few days. If you notice symptoms, seek medical care immediately.
Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever as well as Colorado Tick Fever and Tularemia. Symptoms of Colorado Tick Fever include fever, chills, headache, body ache and feeling tired, and while not life-threatening, there are no medications to treat it. Tularemia symptoms vary but are similar and all are accompanied by a fever which can be as high as 104ᵒ.
Ticks live where yards border wooded areas, in ornamental plants, gardens, or anywhere there are leaves and shade. To learn how to manage tick habitat in your yard, use this Interactive Tool for Managing Tick Habitat.
It’s important to wear insect repellant with DEET (20% or more) and protective clothing when in wooded areas. Always check for ticks on humans or pets after being in the outdoors.
To remove ticks:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure- don’t twist or jerk.
- After removal, thoroughly clean bite and hands with rubbing alcohol, in iodine scrub or soap and water.
- To remove ticks from clothing, put in dryer on high for close to an hour.
For more information, go to http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html.