TICK SEASON: What you need to know.

TICK SEASON: What you need to know.

What are ticks?

It would seem to make sense to call ticks insects, but you would be incorrect. They are actually parasitic arachnids (think spiders) that feed off the blood of birds, reptiles, and mammals, including us. While there are almost 100 varieties in the United States, only a few bite humans. With the diseases they carry, a few is too many.

Where can ticks be found?

They are usually found in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or can be found on animals. They typically wait on the tips of branches, leaves or tall grasses for prey to walk by. When prey walks by, they reach out with their legs and latch on and go for a ride while searching out a place to dig in their hooks to start feeding.

What diseases can ticks carry?

Tickborne illnesses have tripled over the past 13 years. One of the most common is Lyme disease, which can severely impact the joints, heart and nervous system. Symptoms include heart palpitations, facial palsy and arthritis. There are more than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease reported nationally. The total number, the CDC suggests, is closer to 300,000.

Maryland and Virginia are included in the top 95% of states with confirmed reporting of this disease.

Although Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness, ticks can pass on more than 14 diseases to humans including:

  • Anaplasmosis
  • Babesiosis
  • Borrelia mayonii
  • Borrelia miyamotoi
  • Bourbon virus
  • Colorado tick fever
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Heartland virus
  • Lyme disease
  • Powassan disease
  • Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF)
  • STARI (Southern tick-associated rash illness)
  • Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF)
  • Tularemia
  • 364D rickettsiosis

How can you prevent a tick bite?

Wear light-colored clothing when walking in wooded areas in order to help spot them easily. Try tucking pants into socks, and tuck shirts into pants. Walk in the center of trails and avoid areas with high grass, too.

It is crucial to check yourself, your kids and your pets for ticks regularly. Ticks often attach themselves to warm areas such as the knees, behind the ears, groin, armpits and hairline. Be sure to shower within two hours of coming back indoors and tumble dry your clothes on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks. Tick’s saliva has anesthetic properties, so you may not even realize you’ve been bitten.

If you do find one on your person, a pet or loved one, how do you safely remove it?

If you find a tick, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp it by the head as close to the skin as possible. Gently pull the tick upward, making sure NOT TO TWIST or squeeze it. If you’re uncomfortable removing the tick yourself, seek medical attention.

Burning a tick off can even increase your chances of getting a tickborne illness so do not attempt this method.

After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. The CDC recommends disposing of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.

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