Summer is coming to an end and in most places, cooler temperatures mean less bug bites. However, with fall approaching and camping trips being planned left and right, you may want to think twice before assuming that the days of creepy bugs and itchy bites are behind you. Ticks are still out in abundance regardless of the temperature drop, and the consequences of a tick bite have the potential to be treacherous.
Ticks are pesky little members of the arachnid family that are commonly found in low vegetation areas and are hematophagous; in other words, they survive by feeding off of the blood of mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians. Blood plays a crucial role in tick development because blood is needed to reach each new stage of a tick’s life cycle. In fact, many ticks die due to failure to find a blood host. But how do ticks latch on to a feeding source? Ticks are not something we regularly see crawling around on your floor like a spider. Instead, ticks actually identify well used paths and remain on blades of grass or twigs. When a body part brushes against the grass or twig, ticks will quickly climb up the host and latch on to feed. But there are bigger, and scarier, reasons why it is important to avoid ticks at all costs.
Ticks play a massive role in disease transmission, second only to mosquitos, and are responsible for vector-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease, Colorado tick fever, and Tularemia (although it is important to remember that not all tick bites result in disease). Although all forms of tickborne illnesses are serious, Lyme disease is spreading rapidly around the United States. This occurs when a tick feeds on a carrier of Lyme, and then feeds on another person or animal for 36-48 hours, allowing the illness to transfer into the bloodstream. In 2013, a startling 30,000 Americans were infected with Lyme disease, with most cases occurring in the Northeast and along the Mississippi River (Healthline). Symptoms of Lyme disease include a rash around the eye, fever, chills, arthritic pain, accelerated or decelerated heartbeat, and loss of memory. Unfortunately, there is no Lyme vaccine available for humans, although there is one for dogs.
So how do we avoid ticks? It’s hard because they don’t buzz around our faces and make themselves a constant annoyance. Ticks are silent and sneaky. Nevertheless, there are some precautions you can take:
- The most obvious way to avoid ticks is to avoid grassy or woodsy areas. However, this may seem silly to some outdoorsmen and women. In that case, try to walk in the center of a path, away from long blades of grass or twigs that stick out.
- Stick to repellents that are 20-30% DEET. Be sure to spray clothing, as well as body parts. (Remember, ticks latch and crawl for as long as possible).
- Take a shower after a day outside. This assists in washing off any ticks that are crawling on your body and also make it easier to identify ticks that may have already latched on.
- Perform full body checks, including the scalp! This can be done with a mirror if there is no one who can assist you. Parents should be sure to check children.
- Be sure to examine all four legged friends on a regular basis. It is extremely important to remember that our pets are also at great risk for tick bites, and can bring ticks inside. If you haven’t already, speak to your veterinarian about obtaining a Lyme vaccine for your dogs, it could save their life.
Be sure to stay aware of ticks this upcoming season. As the number of people and animals with Lyme disease rises, our chances of obtaining the illness increase as well. Take the proper precautions and conduct frequent tick checks on yourself, members of the family, and all pets!
Written by labtestingnow.com