As Lyme disease Awareness Month winds down, the tick population is out and active. Just this past weekend I was working in the yard with my husband when he noticed a tick on his shirt. Lucky for us, we were able to see it easily on his white long-sleeved shirt (yes, I made him wear long sleeves). Had he had dark colors or a T-shirt on we may not have seen it until it had already attached. Of course, this tick encounter came up at a barbecue later that night and I was surprised to hear how little people know about both ticks and Lyme disease. Since it’s almost June and will no longer be Lyme disease Awareness month, let’s address some commonly asked questions…
Do all ticks carry Lyme disease? No, there are many species of ticks, but only the blacklegged, or deer, ticks carry Lyme disease and only 1 in 4 or 5 deer ticks carry Lyme.
How can I distinguish a deer tick from another type of tick? Deer ticks have black legs (hence the name blacklegged tick). When a deer tick hasn’t had a blood meal, its back is most commonly black and brown, however, when it is engorged, the body turns a grayish blue color.
Are there signs that there are ticks in my area? The most obvious way to tell if there are deer ticks in your area are to see if you have an active deer population. Deer are the most common transportation method for deer ticks. Anywhere you have deer, you will find ticks.
What are the best ways to avoid tick bites and Lyme disease? Anyone who spends time outdoors has the opportunity to be bitten by a tick, but there are things you can do to minimize your risk. Wearing lose, light colored clothing will make ticks easier to spot. Make sure to do a thorough tick check after spending time outdoors, paying particular attention to the dark, hard to reach areas that ticks like to hide and attach. This includes your armpits, behind the knee and the groin. According to most sources, a tick has to be attached for at least 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease.
Does a bull’s-eye rash develop in all cases of Lyme? No, not all people with Lyme disease have the bull’s-eye rash, but the majority do. Between 80-90% of people with Lyme do have some form of the rash, but sometimes they can’t see it depending on where the tick bite happened. The rash will center around the tick bite. Other symptoms of Lyme are joint pain, fatigue, headaches and fever.
Is Lyme disease easily treated? When Lyme is diagnosed early it is easily treated with antibiotics. About 10-20% of cases develop chronic Lyme disease which is more difficult to treat. The earlier it can be diagnosed, the less likely you are to have long term effects of Lyme.
How do I remove an attached tick? Despite the many myths involving burning and suffocating ticks, the best way to remove a tick is with tweezers. Grab the tick with the tweezers as close to your body as possible and pull out straight, making sure that the entire head is removed. Ticks have beak-like mouths so it may be difficult to pull it off. After removing the tick, place it in a plastic bag in case it needs to be tested by the doctor and wash the tick bite out with soap and water.
Are there things I can do in my yard to avoid ticks and minimize my chance of getting Lyme? Yes, at Mosquito Squad we recommend the 6 Cs of tick control.
Clear out. Reduce your tick exposure by clearing out areas where lawn and tree debris gathers. Ticks thrive in moist, shady areas and tend to die in sunny, dry areas. Locate compost piles away from play areas or high traffic. Separate them with wood chips or gravel. Don’t position playground equipment, decks and patios near treed areas.
- Clean. Eliminate leaf litter and brush by cleaning it up around the house and lawn edges, mow tall grasses and keep your lawn short.
- Choose plants. Select plants and shrubs that are not attractive to deer and/or install physical barriers to keep deer out of your yard. Check with your local nursery to determine the best choices for your area.
- Check hiding places. Know tick hiding places and check them frequently. Fences, brick walls and patio retaining walls are popular hiding places.
- Care for family pets. Family pets can suffer from tick-borne disease and also carry infected ticks into the home. Talk to your veterinarian about using tick collars and sprays. As with all pest control products, be sure to follow directions carefully.
- Call the pros. Professionals utilize both barrier sprays that can kill live ticks on the spot as well as “tick tubes.” Strategically placed, “tick tubes” prompt field mice to incorporate tick-killing material in their bedding, effectively eliminating hundreds of tick nymphs found in each mouse nest.
When it comes to treatment, do not hesitate to reach out to your local Mosquito Squad office. Not only do our tick treatments for the yard include tick tubes, but also our barrier spray. Our barrier spray will adult ticks on contact before they bite you and your family.