While writing this post on Tick Prevention and Removal For Humans, I can’t help but notice that Spring is in the air. I feel a renewed sense of purpose. After months indoors, you can step outside and hear the birds chirping, smell the blooming trees and flowers, and start planning all of those outdoor activities. But then again, some of us have to deal with allergies, yard work and ticks and mosquitoes. Ah life…..the ultimate balancing act.
Ticks are a small but potentially harmful insect that can transmit 15 known diseases. The most familiar are Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Tick Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, Heartland Virus, Powassan Disease, STARI, Babesia and Tickbourne Relapsing Fever. Now, keep in mind that most ticks do not carry diseases and most tick bites do not cause serious health problems. A tick’s bite is usually painless. They’re tiny insects, so consequently many people are unaware that they’ve been bitten. But it is important to avoid and check for ticks, and to remove a tick as soon as you find it. Ticks don’t survive in hot, dry areas as it causes their bodies to dehydrate. They’re usually active when temperatures are above 40 degrees F, this includes the winter months, and can be found in elevations as high as 11,000 ft above sea level.
Wear light colored clothing, long sleeves and pants, tuck your pants into your socks. Also, wear closed shoes or boots and a hat. Long hair should be covered, braided or tied before going into areas where you think there are ticks. Spray your clothing, backpacks, shoes, etc. with a tick repellent.
According to Consumer Reports Health, the top 6 insect repellents to ward off mosquitoes and deer ticks are :
- Off Deep Woods Sportsmen II; 30% DEET
- Cutter Backwoods Unscented; 23% DEET
- Off FamilyCare Smooth & Dry; 15% DEET
- 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellant 8; 25% DEET
- Repel Plant Based Lemon Eucalyptus; active ingredient oil of lemon eucalyptus
- Natrapel 8-Hour with picaridin
When you come inside after outdoor activities and think you were in an area that may have ticks, remove your clothing and throw them in the dryer on high heat for 10 to 15 minutes. This should ensure that no ticks survive on your clothing. Also, check any gear that you had with you outside. Remember to do a tick check all over your body, including your groin, head, and underarms. Comb your hair with a fine-toothed comb, or have someone check your scalp. Take a shower and wash your hair.
After your pets have been outdoors, check them for ticks as well. Your pets can carry infected ticks indoors where they might fall off and find you. Keep any pets that have been outside off of your furniture, especially beds and bedding.
Make certain that you have very fine pointed tweezers available. These will be useful for removing ticks that you find on you or your family/friends.
You can treat your property with a chemical insecticide that contains pyrethrins. The very best chemical sprays to control infestations are those that contain pyrethrins and insect growth regulators, such as pyriproxyfen and fenoxycarb.
Organic, non-chemical treatments are better for the environment and your health, as well as the health of your pets. The best natural sprays are those that contain peppermint oil and clove extract. A natural chemical inside clove extract, called Eugenol, has properties that instantly kill fleas and ticks on contact. Peppermint and clove oil also help with the elimination and control of mosquitoes. The use of nematodes is one of the best natural treatments to kill fleas and ticks in your yard. Available in spray form, and invisible to the naked eye, nematodes are “good” worms that release a substance that is toxic to fleas and ticks. Nematodes are safe to use, and won’t harm humans or animals. Nematode treatment often outlasts other organic and chemical flea and tick solutions. Whatever tick resolution you use, either chemical or non-chemical, be sure you read and understand the products warnings, precautions and application instructions.
The cheapest and easiest way to keep your yard free from fleas and ticks is to keep your yard manicured. Mow your lawn, and keep shrubs and plants trimmed. Also, remove anything from your yard that might attract rodents and other animals, including trash and debris. Rodents and animals carry fleas and ticks, and may be the cause of an infestation.
First of all, if you find a tick on your skin, DON’T panic and please resist the urge to just “brush” it off of your skin. Panicky and frantic actions can cause you to incorrectly remove the tick. The idea is to stay calm and remove the whole tick, intact.
Use fine-tipped or pointy tweezers to remove a tick. Do not handle the tick with your bare hands. If you don’t have tweezers available, you can use latex gloves, a tissue/napkin, even a t-shirt or thin piece of cloth. There are also commercially available tick removers.
- Grab the tick as close to your skin and it’s mouth as you can, (that’s what’s stuck to your skin). The body of the tick is the visible part.
- Do not grab the tick around its swollen belly. You could push infected fluids back into your skin layers or bloodstream.
- Gently pull the tick straight out until its mouth lets go of your skin. Do not twist the tick. This could break off the tick’s body and leave the head in your skin.
- Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers, because then you would be at risk of absorbing it’s toxins. (Please don’t “release it back into the wild”. Get rid of it, permanently, and save another living creature the anguish of having to endure a tick bite.)
- You can put the tick in a ziplock bag and save it in the freezer for later identification if you so desire.
For those who like to do things with a hacker’s flair – try Creek Stewart’s Not-So-Straweful Tick Puller:
Using a knife or scissors, cut an eye-shaped hole toward the end of the straw, large enough to fit over the tick’s body. The outside tip of the eye cut (the side closest to the edge of the straw) should come to a very fine point. Slide the eye over the tick and pull from the side, wedging the tick’s head and neck in the corner of this fine-cut point. Steadily pull until the tick detaches.
After the tick has been removed, wash the area of the tick bite with a lot of warm, clean water. Be sure to wash your hands well with soap and water.
WebMD suggests that you can cover the wound with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a nonstick bandage. Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.
Some ticks are so small it is hard to see them. This makes it hard to tell if you have removed the tick’s head. If you do not see any obvious parts of the tick’s head at the bite site, assume you’ve removed the entire tick, but watch for symptoms of a skin infection.
WebMD also advises that if you have a rash, headache, joint pain, fever, or flu-like symptoms, this could mean you have an illness related to a tick bite. If you have any of these symptoms, or symptoms of a skin infection, call a doctor.
DON’T DO THIS
- Smother a tick that’s stuck to your skin with petroleum jelly, nail polish, gasoline, or rubbing alcohol.
- Burn the tick off.
- Smothering or burning a tick could make it release fluid back into your body and increase your chance of infection.
Now, you can go outside and enjoy the Spring Equinox armed with the knowledge of tick prevention and removal methods.
I hope you find this post helpful. Let us know what you think.