Ticks

This post draws on the online Boy’s Life Magazine article on ticks.  The full article can be found here.  Several additional resources are linked at the end of this article.

What are they?

Ticks are a blood sucking parasites in the arachnid family.  Adults (the ones that typically bite humans) have eight legs and range in size from 1/8″ to 3/8″.

Southern Indiana has three types of ticks with which we are most concerned (from the Purdue Entomology article reference below):

  • American Dog Tick (also known as an Eastern Wood Tick)
    • This type of tick is known to cause tick paralysis and carry spotted fever
    • Most common tick found on humans in southern Indiana
  • Lone Star Tick
    • This type of tick is known to cause tick paralysis and carry spotted fever
    • Second most frequent tick found on humans in southern Indiana
  • Black Legged Tick (also known as a Deer Tick)
    • This type of tick is the one that carries Lyme disease
    • The very small nymph (not the adult) of this type of tick is typically what bites humans

*Photos of the different types of ticks available here.*

Preventing / Repelling

Some tips on preventing and repelling tick bites:

  1. Stay on the trail.  Sometimes this is not possible, so if you have been in the underbrush or tall grass, know you are at a greater risk for ticks, so you should examine yourself closely for ticks.
  2. Treat your clothes with a commercially available retardant products containing 0.5% permethrin according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) article linked in the references below.  Clothes and gear can be treated and the treatment is good for multiple washings.  This option is not for everyone, and some people may be allergic to the chemical treatments.
  3. Wear bug repellent containing DEET.  The CDC specifically recommends (full article below):
    1. Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. EPA’s helpful search tool can help you find the product that best suits your needs. Always follow product instructions.
    2. Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
    3. Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.

Removing

1.  Wash your hands.

2.  Wear protective gloves if possible.

3.  Get a quality pair of fine-tipped forceps or tweezers.

4.  With your forceps, grab the attached tick as close to the skin (i.e., as far up on the tick’s head) as possible.

5.  Gently pull the tick out counter to the direction that the mouth parts entered the skin.  In other words, back the tick out in reverse!  Use a steady, constant motion, and move in a straight line, being careful not to twist, jerk, or turn the forceps.  Also, be careful not to squeeze the tick’s body too much because doing so might rupture the tick.

6.  Once you remove it, consider saving the tick in a sealable container for identification purposes.

7.  Next, cleanse the skin with an antiseptic or soap and water.  You can also apply an antibiotic ointment if you have one.

8.  Wash your hands and go about the rest of your day.

NOTES:

  1. Do not waste your money on expensive tick-removal kits.  A good pair of forceps does an excellent job and comes in handy for other medical emergencies, as well.
  2. Avoid using “home remedy” methods of tick removal, such as rubbing fingernail polish or vaseline petrolatum, using rubbing alcohol, or applying a hot extinguished match directly to the tick.  In general, these methods do not result in tick detachment.  More importantly, some of these methods may actually make the situation worse.

Treatment

Make sure to clean the bite with soap and water or a antiseptic of some type.  Then treat the bite as any other open wound by applying antibiotic ointment.  Wash your hands with soap and warm water after dealing with a tick.

If you develop a rash or flu-like symptoms or otherwise feel ill in days or weeks after being bitten by a tick, talk to your doctor.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Ticks

Purdue University Medical Entomology – Ticks

Boy’s Life Online Article

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