If you discover a tick or two at home whether on a pet or on somebody, should you be concerned or simply disregard it? It is only a couple of tiny creatures anyway and they are unlikely to become a nuisance. But that pair could multiply and before you know it, your home, your family and your pets are already being annoyed and pestered by tick infestation.
Education is your best defense where most pests are concerned including ticks. They may not at all times pose a threat to you, it is good to know some basic information about what they are, what harm they can do and how they can be controlled.
Ticks are actually not insects, but rather parasites that belong to the same category as spiders, scorpions and mites, called arachnids (joint-legged invertebrates). While only a small number are said to be found in the United States, there are well over 800 species of ticks worldwide.
During a tick’s nymph stage, it has 3 pairs of legs but becomes a complete set of eight legs upon reaching adult stage. These disturbing crawlers find ways to attach themselves to hosts to feed on their blood. Tick infestation can happen when you least expect it as there show no evident signs especially on pets. It is a must to constantly check for ticks especially if you live in tick-inhabited areas.
Tick types depend mostly by region and not all species attack human and pets. Some are known to simply remain burrowed on a single host, generally an animal. Often, the means by which a tick enters a home is through pets after an activity outdoors.
Most ticks are found in wooded areas or where there are an abundance of bushes and tall grass. They grab every opportunity to crawl their way up or drop themselves onto their target that happens to brush near. Leaf litter is also one of the most common places to find ticks.
Given the ways they can move into your home, regular cleaning helps in controlling ticks. The action that one must take involves treatment for both home and pets including the immediate surroundings. There are environment-friendly sprays for the purpose of eliminating ticks. The best time for treatments is during tick season when they are most plenty.
Keeping a mowed lawn, removing leaf litter, getting rid of stored but rotting items and cleaning pet areas are also effective ways of reducing the instances of ticks.
It is thought that Lyme disease may be treated if it is detected in the early stages. In its early stages, Lyme disease is treated with oral antibiotics (doxycycline). If Lyme disease is found in later stages, intravenous antibiotics may be given to the patient. Research from ILADS as shown that a regimen of a minimum of 21 days (30 is typical) up to 45 days seems to be the most effective at treating Lyme disease.
Visible symptoms could appear as soon as 3 days after the bite or as late as 30 days after exposure, other symptoms appear within the same timeframe.
We used to tell people to use DEET repellents, tuck your pants into your socks, walk in the center of the trail, and to do a thorough tick check when you get home.
Although those strategies can help reduce the risk of tick bites and disease, people didn’t like the feel of repellents on skin, or the look of long pants tucked into socks. Moreover, the poppy-seed sized nymphal deer ticks were still very hard to find.
We now encourage people to plan a little bit ahead. Treat shoes, socks, shorts/pants, and shirt with PERMETHRIN tick repellent the day before going on the hike. Let it dry onto the fabric (takes about an hour or two), then go out and have fun! It’s still good to practice walking down the center of the trail, and try to remember to do a tick check when you get home, but if you are wearing clothes treated with permethrin the chances of a tick bite are dramatically reduced. Repellents with at least 20%-30% DEET may work as well, but not with the same effectiveness as permethrin.
Ready for more good news? Your permethrin treated clothes are ready to protect you the next time you venture into tick country. On average, permethrin treated clothes can be washed up to 5-6 times and still be very effective. Products such as Insect Shield, which are designed specifically for clothes, are still effective after 70 washes!
No such luck! Some species, like the American dog tick and Lone Star tick are just not very active in the fall and winter. Others, like the Blacklegged (deer) tick can remain active in their adult stage from fall to spring as long as the temperature is above freezing. Each life stage (larvae, nymph and adult) of any species of tick has a discrete time period when it is most likely to be looking for a host.
NO! Ticks don’t fly, jump, run, skip, or even move all that quickly. Period! Depending on the life stage and species of the tick, they quest for hosts anywhere from ground level to about knee-high on vegetation, and then tend to crawl up to find a place to bite.
NO – you can only get Lyme disease from the bite of a Blacklegged (“deer”) tick. In most places in the Northeastern U.S., as many as 20% of Blacklegged tick nymphs and 50% of adult females are infected.
That said, if you are bitten by any tick, remove it right away, then identify it. You can have it tested for infection to better assess your risk. Blacklegged ticks attached for less than 16-24 hrs are not likely to have transmitted any infections (including Lyme).
All ticks (including deer ticks, dog ticks, Lone star ticks, etc.) come in small, medium and large sizes. The smallest size, called larvae, are nearly microscopic. The middle stage, called nymphs, are medium sized although most people would call them tiny. Nymphs of all ticks are about the size of a pinhead in their unfed state.
Then there are the large size or adult stage ticks. Even the adult stage of Blacklegged ticks (aka deer ticks) that transmit Lyme disease are relatively large. In the northeastern United States, the most common “large” tick likely to bite dogs, cats, horses, and humans in the Fall and Winter months is the Blacklegged tick, and it can transmit disease-causing agents including Lyme bacteria. Typically, about 50% of adult Blacklegged ticks are infected with Lyme bacteria.
If I find a tick biting me, should I cover it with Vaseline or touch it with a hot match to get it to detach?
No! While these methods may once have been believed to work years ago, we now know that the safest way to remove a tick is to wipe it with rubbing alcohol to disinfect the affected area, and then remove the tick with needle-nosed tweezers or a tick removal device such as a Tick Twister.
The length of time a tick stays attached depends on the tick species, tick life stage and the host immunity. It also depends on whether you do a daily tick check. Generally if undisturbed, larvae remain attached and feeding for about 3 days, nymphs for 3-4 days, and adult females for 7-10 days. Deer ticks feed a day or so faster than Lone Star ticks and American dog ticks. You might be interested in our tick growth comparison pictures; ticks change their appearance pretty dramatically as they feed which can make identifying them challenging.
Host immunity also can impact duration of tick attachment as well. Prior sensitization to specific proteins in tick saliva can make it harder for ticks to ingest blood. Sometimes it causes them to stay attached a bit longer but more commonly, it makes the host itch and frequently the tick is removed by the scratching.