Thankfully, there are ways to minimize your contact with these pesky pests and natural repellents to ward them off.
Ticks are found across all of North America and can be active year-round especially in areas with mild winters. However, they are most active in the spring and summer months and often well into the fall (April-September) as they prefer warm humid temperatures.
Although most common in wooded and tall grassy areas, ticks can also be found in your own backyard as they hitch rides on migrating birds in the spring making their way into city landscapes. However, you can breathe a small sigh of relief knowing that only a few of the 700 known species are found to bite and transmit diseases to humans.
Ticks can carry a host of pathogens that can cause human disease. Lyme disease is the most well-known, however ticks can also carry STARI (Southern tick-associated rash illness), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), and more.
Should you discover a tick attached to you, remove it immediately and if possible save the tick in a sealable plastic bag and store it in the freezer. This will preserve the tick and allow you to present it to your physician should you develop symptoms at a later date.
A small bump or redness at the site of a tick bite that occurs immediately and resembles a mosquito bite is common. This irritation generally goes away in 1-2 days and is not a sign of Lyme disease or STARI.
Should you be bitten or suspect you have been bitten by a tick, the following are signs and symptoms to watch for.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, consult your doctor or health physician and inform them that you suspect you have been bitten by a tick.
Although not every bite from a tick transmits this infection, bites should be evaluated carefully since early detection and appropriate treatment are critical in effectively treating Lyme disease and preventing the potentially serious medical complications caused by this infection.
Blacklegged ticks are hard ticks identifiable by their black legs, red-orange body, and black scutum, which looks like a dot on the upper half of its shield. Should you be bitten by this tick or any other tick and develop symptoms, your physician will perform a blood test to look for antibodies associated with Lyme disease.
The most common treatment for Lyme disease is a course of antibiotics, however, you can support your recovery with the addition of natural supplements and foods that boost the immune system.
Before heading outside, there are four simple precautions and preventative measures you can take to protect yourself from ticks in your area.
Ticks do not jump or fly, they simply hang out on a branch or long piece of vegetation waiting for a host to walk by. When walking or hiking in wooded areas, stick to the middle of the path to avoid brushing against long grasses. Avoid leaf litter and heavily bushed areas and when participating in outdoor activities such as picnics and sports, try to choose areas with lots of sunshine and low-cut grass.
Wear light-colored clothing such as long pants tucked into your socks and a long-sleeved shirt. This will allow you to see the darker-colored ticks on your clothing before it makes its way to your skin. You may also choose to wear a hat and boots to ensure most of your skin is fully covered.
Deet has long been used as a tick repellent along with Permethrin, however, both can be toxic to humans and pets so you may want to choose from the natural repellents listed below.
After returning from outside, inspect both yourself and your pets for any ticks that may still be looking for a free meal. Remove and wash all clothing followed by a cycle in a hot clothes dryer.
The best way to enjoy your time outdoors is to use the above precautions and to stay informed on the level of tick borne illness, populations in your area, and the types of ticks in your zone so that you can avoid heavily infested areas.
The following apps are available for public use to help track and identify ticks that may be present where you live.
Although ticks can strike fear in the most courageous of people, you can still enjoy the outdoors safely all year long by being prepared, avoiding long grass, heavily wooded areas, and leaf debris, and by being diligent on checking for ticks after your time outside.
If you have any questions about ticks, tick bites or Lyme disease, we here to help – give us a call!
Jordan RA, et al. (2012). Efficacy of plant-derived and synthetic compounds on clothing as repellents against Ixodes scapularis and Amblyomma americanum (Acari: Ixodidae) [Abstract]
Christina A. Nelson, Catherine M. Hayes, Molly A. Markowitz, Jacqueline J. Flynn, Alan C. Graham, Mark J. Delorey, Paul S. Mead, Marc C. Dolan, The heat is on: Killing blacklegged ticks in residential washers and dryers to prevent tick borne diseases, Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases, Volume 7, Issue 5, 2016, Pages 958-963, ISSN 1877-959X,