It is time we address the silent predator quietly lurking in the shadows. While minuscule in size, it has the ability to launch an assault on anyone who dares to step foot in the woods. It has honed the skills needed to launch this attack without causing any sort of disturbance, essentially without you knowing at all. Occasionally they show face, crawling creepily over your exposed skin. Once you see one, it begins to feel like they are crawling all over. We are warned year after of their presence, and their horde severely outnumbers our own. It is time we rage war against the infamous Deer Tick.
That introduction may have seemed extreme, but ticks are absolutely no joke. It is seemingly impossible to get bitten by a tick and not have your mind immediately race to the thought of Lyme Disease. The goal of this article is to raise awareness and encourage us all to be proactive when it comes to identifying ticks and preventing bites. Taking the necessary steps will help manage the fear that ticks have instilled in us.
The CDC link at the bottom of this article is a great source of information for all things ticks. It is without a doubt an unfortunate situation when you find one crawling on you, or worse embedded in your skin. However, developing a deeper understanding of what they look like, where they are found, and what you can do to prevent/remove them will get you prepared for the inevitable next encounter.
The Deer tick, also known as the black-legged tick, has a population concentrated primarily on the east coast, with some presence in Midwestern states. They are infamous for their transmission of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.
Identification and location:
The species of tick that strikes fear in so many people, due to its ability to transmit Lyme disease, can be easily identified by its black legs. The CDC resource linked below offers more detail on the identification of particular tick species and the potential diseases that can be transmitted from their respective bites.
It is important to know that avoidance is virtually impossible, as ticks are found anywhere from the backwoods to the backyard. They can travel on clothing and skin from location to location via adults, children, pets, and other animals.
Since it is nearly impossible to avoid ticks all together, it is important that we take a look at some of the best practices proven to minimize their presence.
- If you see a tick freely moving on your skin or clothing, remove it immediately. If a bite is obvious and the tick is embedded, continue below to the removal section of this article.
Areas that require detailed examination
- Ask your veterinarian about prevention products and potential diseases.
- Take a shower to wash off freely moving ticks and inspect your skin for embedded ticks, including those tough to reach places.
Removing a tick
The CDC suggests the following steps for tick removal:
- Use tweezers to grasp the tick and pull upward with constant pressure.
- Be careful when applying the upward pressure to avoid separating the ticks head from its body, as the head may remain in the skin.
- In this scenario, try and remove the head with clean tweezers.
- If the head remains in your skin after removal, it is okay to leave if you cannot safely get it out.
- Thoroughly clean the area with rubbing alcohol.
- Soap and water will work if rubbing alcohol isn’t immediately available.
- Dispose of the tick by killing it with rubbing alcohol or flushing it down the toilet.
- Do not crush the tick in your fingers to avoid disease transmission.
*** The CDC makes it very clear that some “at home remedies” are very ineffective at removing ticks and cause more problems than they solve. Speaking from personal experience, applying heat to an embedded tick did not make it uncomfortable enough to crawl out of the skin. It simply killed it.
Symptoms of Potential Illness
- A fever and rash are common symptoms of tick borne disease/illness. If you experience either, consult a doctor.
- Bullseye/circular rash - commonly found at the site of the bite.
- Not found on every victim of a tick bite.
- Joint pain, muscle fatigue, and muscles aches are other symptoms of Lyme's disease.
Summary of Action Steps
- Develop an understanding of habitat that may have a high concentration of ticks. Being aware of the fact that you will be entering an environment with a high chance of tick exposure will help prepare you for a potential tick encounter.
- Proactively check clothing, gear, pets, and your body after exposing yourself to these environments.
- Remove any freely moving ticks to avoid a potential bite. If a tick is embedded, follow the removal tips from CDC found above or on their website.
- Monitor the area of the bite for any type of rash and note if you experience a fever, muscle aches, muscle fatigue, or joint pain. These may be early indicators of Lyme Disease.
Do not let the presence of ticks stop you from enjoying the things that you love to do. Too many times it seems as though the fear of a tick bite and the potential for Lyme Disease keeps people out of the woods and on the couch. It is important to shed light on the fact that ticks are found virtually everywhere, including inside your home. The focus should be on awareness, prevention techniques, removal techniques, and understanding when to contact a doctor. No one is safe from a potential tick bite, and being proactive by following the protocol detailed by the CDC will help you identify situations where you may have been compromised and set you on the best path for addressing and treating the situation.
“Ticks.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, 7 June 2018, www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html.