Yesterday, I blogged about fruit flies with a few tips on how to get rid of them. They're certainly a pest, but more because they're annoying and not so much because of any element of danger. As far as I know, nobody's ever died or even become sick from an attack of fruit flies. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but they're pretty benign as far as pests go.
Ticks, on the other hand, are a bit more sinister. I happen to live in a high tick area. Aren't I lucky?
We see both deer ticks and dog ticks on a regular basis. You've probably heard of deer ticks since they're infamous for causing Lyme Disease. They're tiny and hard, though not impossible, to spot. Dog ticks are a bit bigger, easier to notice and don't transmit Lyme. They can, however, transmit other diseases, so you still have to follow all the usual tick precautions when dealing with a dog tick.
Despite using Frontline or Advantage on our pets faithfully, they still get ticks every year. Ticks are most prevalent in the spring and fall, when the weather is somewhere in between really hot and really cold. During the cool weather, ticks are actively seeking warm bodies to feed upon. Once the snow has covered everything and we're getting below freezing weather, we usually don't see ticks anymore. Likewise, in the heat of high summer, they're pretty rare.
Right now, our one-year-old cat has been plagued with ticks. We're pulling several off of him a week. He's an indoor/outdoor cat who roams in the woodsy area behind our house. My middle son had a tick on his neck a few days ago. Usually, 2-3 members of my family get one tick each a year. For some reason, my middle son and husband seem to be the unlucky ones. I've had two in my lifetime. My youngest son has never had one.
The basic advice seems to be that one should wear long pants tucked into socks to prevent ticks from finding their way onto your body. Avoid walking through or playing in places that have a lot of leafy ground cover. Stay on well-traveled paths.
In my experience, ticks crawl around on your body a bit before finding a warm, cozy place to latch. I'm not sure the recommendation for tucked in long clothes is sound. We always find ticks under our clothing (hiney, groin or armpit area!) or at the back of the neck at the hairline. My husband has been fully covered with work gloves, hiking boots and heavy socks and still had ticks find their way in under the clothing. I tend to think it's best to dress for comfort depending on the weather and just do a thorough tick check afterwards.
The best way to keep them from latching on is to do tick checks as soon as you come in from outdoors. Remove your clothes, shower and look in those warm spots to see if anything decided to snuggle up with you.
If you do find a tick latched onto your body, don't panic.
We've had so many that we don't even bat an eye anymore. If you know it's been less than 24 hours, it's really no big thing. The only time we call the doctor is if we aren't sure how long it's been or if we can't remove the whole thing on our own. Honestly, we've removed so many that it's a rare thing when I can't get it all out.
I try to save the tick, if it's a deer tick. I watch for symptoms of illness, not just the bulls-eye rash, which is a classic symptom of Lyme Disease. Not everyone that gets Lyme gets the rash. I also look for other signs of illness, like fever, headache, fatigue, joint pain and others. Here's a comprehensive list of Lyme Disease symptoms as well as other tick and Lyme information from New York State.
If one of us were to exhibit any of the typical Lyme symptoms that coincided with a tick bite, we would head to the doctor. They can test the tick to see if it's positive for Lyme. They can also do a blood test on the individual in question to test for Lyme.
Knock on wood, but so far, no one in my family has had Lyme Disease. Most of the ticks we get are dog ticks. We've definitely had a few deer ticks, but they've always been spotted and removed quickly. Both kinds of ticks leave an itchy, raised welt, even when removed in a timely manner. It's kind of like a mosquito bite on steroids.
The scary thing is ticks can be elusive. Sometimes, people don't notice them before they fall off on their own. That's why tick checks are so important. If you've been in a woodsy area or if you have pets that get frequent ticks, check yourself and your kids daily until tick season is over.