Tick, tick, tick… If you’re thinking about a clock right now, think again. I’m talking about the tiny, but extremely dangerous creature making its presence felt in the U.S. this year like never before.
A significant increase in the number of ticks is being reported in many states around the country.
And these ticks are creating a wide variety of diseases. The most well-known of which is Lyme disease.
It’s a serious infection carried by deer ticks. Lyme disease can be spread to any animal or human the tick latches onto and bites.
Lyme Disease One of Many
Reported tick-borne diseases doubled from 2004 to 2016. Lyme disease is only one of the illnesses this new wave of ticks is transmitting.
A tick-borne virus is believed to have killed one man and sickened another in New Jersey. A 7-year-old Colorado girl even developed paralysis in her legs from a tick bite.
In New York state, health officials are warning residents to be especially careful to avoid ticks this year.
They have seen an unusually high number of reports of tick bites. And they are finding new species of ticks as we speak.
A Self-Cloning Tick
One new tick is the Asian Long-Horned tick. This creepy arachnid has been discovered in several counties in eastern Tennessee. As well as in other states.
No one knows how it arrived in the U.S. But it can reproduce without mating. In other words, it can clone itself.
And then there’s the Lone Star tick. A bite from this tick can make a human develop a severe allergy to red meat. That’s due to the passing along of a sugar molecule.
And if all that weren’t bad enough, most female ticks can lay between 2,000 to 4,000 eggs per year.
Many people refer to ticks as insects. But they are actually arachnids. Like spiders, mites and scorpions.
They have four pairs of legs and no antenna. They can’t fly or jump. But they can crawl and they know where to find blood.
You won’t see ticks in trees. They sit on the tips of grass blades and shrubs, waiting for a host to come by. They then attach themselves to the host and find a spot to burrow and suck blood.
One of the biggest problems with ticks is that they can go unnoticed for a long time. They feed very slowly. Sometimes over several days.
Kate Fowlie is a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She says, “Tick-borne diseases are on the rise. Prevention should be on everyone’s mind. Particularly during the spring, summer and early fall.”
Fortunately, there are some ways to lower getting attached by a tick.
First is to avoid tick-infested areas. This is easier said than done, depending on where you live. Ticks love wooded areas and long grass.
But if you do hike out on a walking trail, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Plus boots and a head covering. Also keep to the middle. Ticks are more likely to be on the edge of the trail in vegetation.
Apply an insect repellent to your clothing that contains 10 to 30 percent DEET. And look over yourself, your pets, and your children or grandchildren for ticks every couple of hours; everywhere over the body.
As a general rule, it takes ticks several hours to transmit any disease they may be carrying. So getting them off quickly is key.
Yard Maintenance Helps
There are plenty of things you can do around your home to limit ticks’ ability to thrive.
Be sure to keep your grass short. Rake your leaves and clear low-hanging branches. If there are deer in your area, fence your yard so they don’t get too close.
Spray the area with tick repellent. Place wood chips or stones around your bushes and other shrubbery.
Ticks are especially active in the summer months. So be mindful especially then.
How to Pull Them Out
If you find that a tick has attached itself to you, a child or an animal, don’t try to pull it out by hand. Unless that’s the only option.
For one thing, the entire tick may not come out. And tick secretions can carry diseases.
Use a tweezers to grasp the tick firmly and then pull it straight out. Don’t twist or jerk. If you don’t have a tweezers, use a piece of cloth to grasp the tick and pull.
Once it is removed, stick it to tape and dispose of it. Or place it in a container of soapy water or flush it down a toilet.
What Else to Watch For
If you want to have the tick identified and examined, keep it in a small vial of alcohol. Write down the date and location where you encountered the tick. Then contact your local health department.
Regardless of what you do with the tick once it’s removed, wash the bite area thoroughly with soap and water. Also, apply an antiseptic.
Sometimes a rash will appear that looks like a bulls-eye. Treatments for tick bites include antibiotics.
If you get a fever or other symptoms, notify your physician immediately.
Ticks are rampant this year and they can spread a variety of serious diseases. So take precautions to make sure you are not a victim.