Whether you like it or not, tick season is here. It’s seriously a thought that scares me living in a mountain town, especially since we spend a lot of our summer days hiking and camping. While the thought is definitely scary, it just means I need to be more educated when it comes to these outdoor pests. Education is key in prevention, and I refuse to let them ruin our summer activities.

The news are reporting that Americans are being increasingly more infected with diseases transmitted by ticks, misquotes and other pests. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “more than 640,000 Americans were infected by so-called vector-borne diseases between 2004 and 2016!”

Even if you’re not a huge outdoors person, you still need to take proper precautions because those pesky bugs can be anywhere. Here are some great tips from Dr. Nancy Troyano, entomologist and Director of Technical Education and Training for Western Exterminator.

How can we protect ourselves and our family members from ticks?

    • If you know that you are going to be somewhere such as hiking in a wooded area, wear long pants and if possible, tuck pants legs into socks or boots to prevent ticks from climbing up the insides of pant legs
    • Wear light-colored clothing to easily spot ticks crawling on you
    • Walk in the center of the trails and avoid walking through tall grasses/bushes
    • Conduct a full body check for ticks and bathe/shower within 2 hours of your return
    • Tick checks are extremely important after outdoor activity, such as hiking in the woods. It’s essential to look closely too. Nymphs (young ticks) can be very tiny, and easy to miss, and unfortunately are also the most likely life stage to transmit Lyme disease. Tick nymphs may resemble a “walking freckle”, so stare at your arms and legs for a few minutes! Use a mirror to look at your back and other areas of your body that are not readily visible.

What should I do if my child has a tick?

Remove the tick ASAP! The longer it is attached, the higher the chance of pathogen transmission. Use tweezers to grasp the tick by the head, as close to the skin as possible, and pull straight up/out. Don’t twist the tick, and never grasp the tick by the abdomen. Grasping the tick by the abdomen (aka the “fat” part of the tick) could potentially squeeze pathogens from the tick right into the bite site.

Save the tick! It’s a necessary and potentially life-saving step. Save the tick in a jar or even a zip lock bag, as long as you’re careful not to crush it. Give to the health care professional to identify/ test. This is very important because not all ticks transmit pathogens and pathogens are specific to certain ticks. If they find it is a deer tick, there’s a potential for Lyme disease, anaplasma and a few others. The doctor may want to start a prophylactic course of antibiotics. However, if the tick is an American dog tick, which is also a very common tick, the fear of tick-borne disease transmission is dramatically reduced. A doctor would likely instruct the person to watch the bite site for infection and be vigilant of fever or any other signs of illness.

If pets display any of these symptoms, speak with your veterinarian. If untreated, tick-borne diseases in pets can be fatal.

    • Joint pain, limping, lameness
    • Swollen lymph nodes
    • Decreased appetite
    • Fever
    • Lethargy

What is Lyme Disease and how can you catch it?

  • Lyme disease is a bacterial infection primarily transmitted by deer ticks and black-legged ticks. If bitten by a tick, remove the tick ASAP! Every minute the tick is attached increases the chance of pathogen transmission, (should the tick be infected). Use tweezers to grasp the tick by the head, as close to the skin as possible, and pull straight up/out. Don’t twist the tick, and never grasp the tick by the abdomen. Grasping the tick by the abdomen (aka the “fat” part of the tick) could potentially squeeze pathogens from the tick right into the bite site.
  • Typical habitats for ticks (that most commonly bite humans) include woodland areas, especially along trails and edges of forests. They are also found in grassy fields or in areas with or surrounded by tall grasses and other vegetation. Note too, that ticks are not commonly found in trees.