Ticks and You
Protecting Yourself and Preventing Illness
There are many misconceptions out there involving ticks and how best to protect yourself from tick related illnesses. The purpose of this article is to debunk some of those misconceptions, review the most effective ways to protect yourself and prevent tick borne illness, and what to do if actually bitten by a tick.
First, let’s look at some of the myths most of us have probably heard about ticks.
- When a tick bites you, you will get sick. Wrong! For most tick borne diseases a tick needs to be attached at least 24 hours to transmit disease. It is also possible a tick does not carry disease at all. The most common fears among ticks is Lyme disease, which is actually only carried by Deer Ticks, one of the five that bite people in North Carolina.
- Ticks don’t live in the mountains. Wrong! Even though they are not as prevalent as in other parts of the state, ticks live all through the state of N.C., including the mountains.
- I don’t have to worry about ticks in winter. Wrong! Ticks do not die during winter unless there is a prolonged period where the temperature is below 10 degrees F. Ticks can latch on to you anytime the temperature is above freezing.
- Ticks fall from trees in to your hair. Wrong! Ticks actually crawl up from the ground. If you find one in your hair, it is probably because it crawled all the way up your body!
- Perfume, alcohol, matches and Vaseline are all effective in removing ticks. Wrong! This can actually make transmission of disease more likely. The only thing needed to remove ticks is a good pair of tweezers placed as close to your skin as possible.
Now that we have debunked some of the common myths associated with ticks, let’s review some ways to protect yourself from ticks.
- Ticks most often live in grassy, wooded, and brushy areas. Be aware that these areas have higher encounter rates with ticks and plan accordingly.
- Treating boots, clothing, and camping gear with Permethrin can help protect from ticks through several washings.
- Use EPA registered insect repellants to help keep ticks away. Always use products per manufacturer instructions.
- Check your clothing and body for ticks as soon as you come in from being outdoors. This will help in preventing the latching on of loose ticks.
- Deer are one of the largest animal carriers of ticks. Discourage them from coming in to your yard by removing plants that attract deer or constructing physical barriers.
- Prevent ticks on pets by using applicable collars, sprays, and other approved medications.
Finally, it’s time to review what steps you should take should you find yourself bitten by a tick. Check out these important tips below.
- Prompt checking for, and removal, of ticks can often prevent the spread of disease. Use a fine tipped tweezer and remove the tick by grasping it as close to your skin as possible and pulling straight up.
- Wash hands and the bite area to reduce the chance for secondary infection. Anti-itch medications can be useful in reducing itching and swelling.
- Save the tick! If you become ill after a bite this can help your health care provider to render proper treatment. Methods for preserving the tick can be to clear tape it to an index card, or save it in a Ziploc bag placed in the freezer.
- If you develop a rash, unusual fatigue, fever or headache, swollen lymph nodes, or flu like symptoms, document any changes you have experienced and see your health care provider as soon as possible.