As the weather warms up, more people are spending time outdoors. Unfortunately, the warm temperatures also bring a slew of pests. Among these pests are ticks, blood-sucking parasites and arachnids that feed on their host through all four stages of their lives, including eggs, larvae, nymphs, and adults.
Ticks have a scary reputation. Fortunately, there are several ways you can avoid tick bites and tick-borne diseases. But before we talk about tick-bite prevention, let’s discuss the different diseases ticks carry and transfer to humans.
Diseases Transmitted by Ticks
As the most well-known tick-borne disease, Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi. Each year, approximately 300.000 people in the United States contract Lyme disease. The deer tick transmits it in the north-eastern United States and the western black-legged tick in the Pacific Northwest. Lyme disease begins with a red spot at the site of the tick bite and can progress into a larger rash that can spread to different areas of the body. Other common symptoms include flu-like symptoms, including fever, muscle aches, chills, and nausea.
Taking an antibiotic within 72 hours of a tick bite can help prevent you from contracting Lyme disease. If left untreated, Lyme disease can worsen and lead to chronic arthritis and inflammation, so seeking medical care as soon as possible is crucial.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is spread by the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, and the brown dog tick. Although RMSF is rare, it can lead to serious health problems, including headaches, red rash, sore muscles, red eyes, fever, and nausea. Similar to Lyme disease, RMSF can subside with the help of medical care and an antibiotic. Doxycycline is the recommended antibiotic treatment for RMSF, and it’s best to take it as soon as possible.
The black-legged tick is known for spreading Anaplasmosis, a bacterial infection that causes headaches, fever, fatigue, muscle aches, and chills. Symptoms typically show up within three weeks after a tick bite. To treat Anaplasmosis, a doctor will prescribe you an antibiotic.
Babesiosis is a disease caused by the bite of a tick infected with Babesia, a tiny parasite that attacks the red blood cells. Babesiosis is often misdiagnosed as malaria because it manifests in similar ways, including chills, muscle aches, fever, sweats, headache, loss of appetite, stomach pain, and fatigue. A cocktail of medications must be taken for seven to ten days to treat babesiosis properly.
Tips for Preventing Tick Bites
With a better understanding of the different tick-borne diseases, you’re probably wondering the best way to limit tick exposure and prevent tick bites. Here are simple and practical steps you can take to avoid getting bit by a tick.
Avoid Tick-Infested Areas
Ticks live in moist vegetation across the United States. You’ll most likely find them hiding in tall grass, bushes, trees, and brush, waiting for the perfect host. These pests are also commonly found in woodpiles, shingles, treehouses, playhouses, and the driveway.
Wear Long Sleeves and Long Pants
If you’re an avid hiker who likes to trek through heavily wooded areas, you’ll want to make sure to protect your skin by wearing long sleeves and long pants.
Spray Your Clothes and Shows with Permethrin
The TickEncounter Resource Center recommends spraying your shoes with permethrin and wearing permethrin-treated clothing. These preventative measures are easy to follow and take only a few minutes. Plus, it doesn’t require any cleanup.
Check Your Clothing After Coming Inside
After spending a significant time outdoors, especially in grassy, moist, or wooded areas, you’ll want to inspect your clothing for ticks. If you see any clinging on to the fabric of your clothes, remove them carefully. Make sure to wash your garments in hot water and tumble dry in high heat. This will kill any remaining ticks.
Inspect Your Skin While Showering
We recommend showering within two hours of coming indoors. While you’re in the shower, inspect your entire body for ticks, paying special attention to particular areas, including the back of your knees, elbows, behind your ears, hairline, ankles, and waist. Although hot water and soap won’t remove the ticks, showering allows the opportunity to ensure there aren’t any ticks on your body.
Safely Remove the Tick
Suppose you end up seeing a tick during your shower. There’s no need to panic. To prevent contracting any potential diseases, you’ll want to remove the pest as soon as possible. Here’s how:
- Locate the exact area where the tick’s mouth is attached to the skin.
- Taking a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, grab the tick’s mouth-parts and gently pull upward using steady and even pressure. Make sure not to twist the tick around, or you could end up with remaining tick parts.
- Once the tick has been safely removed, clean the bite with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Wrap the bug in toilet paper and flush it down the toilet.
Head to your doctor as soon as possible if the tick has burrowed into your skin and tweezers aren’t cutting it.
You’ll want to pay close attention to the tick bite to ensure it doesn’t become infected or turn into a rash. If you begin to feel sick or the bite refuses to heal, we recommend seeking medical care. Your doctor may prescribe you an antibiotic to help kill the infection.
It’s important to note that not every tick carries disease. However, if you end up finding and removing the tick, you’ll still want to look out for symptoms in the next several weeks.
Call a Bug Exterminator for Your Tick Infestation
If ticks live in your neck of the woods and you believe they’re taking over your property, it’s time to call a bug exterminator who will inspect your property to determine which tick species is infesting your property. Since different ticks live in different areas of the country and transmit various diseases, your professional pest control company will also consider your geographical location and the unique behavior of the ticks to create a custom tick control plan.