Tick-borne disease prevention

PREVENTION

The best way to avoid contracting a tick-borne illness is to avoid getting bitten by a tick in the first place. There are several easy, common-sense ways to reduce the likelihood of tick bites.

Ticks on finger

  • Tuck your pant legs inside your socks. This helps prevent ticks from crawling up inside your pant legs, where they can hide and gain access to the rest of your body.
  • Wear clothing treated with permethrin, a well-known and effective tick repellent. (Elimitick)
  • Frequently check yourself and others for ticks. Be sure to check in warm, dark areas like under waist bands and in armpits.
  • Remove tick habitat from around your home. Ticks love leaves, so in the spring, rake up and remove residual leafy matter from yard edges and under shady vegetation.
  • You can spray your yard and surrounding area with a proven tick-killing spray that will help reduce their population. A common insecticide is bifenthrin. Application strategy should match tick species. It’s best to apply this spray in spring.
  • Pets are big carriers of ticks. Apply tick repellents specially formulated to control the ticks that want to latch onto your pets.
  • If you’ve been out in tick country, before washing your non-treated clothing, throw it in a hot dryer for 10 minutes. This should kill any ticks that rode in on your clothes.

EFFECTIVE REMOVAL

From the University of Rhode Island TickEncounter Resource Center

Often-repeated folk remedies such as touching the tick with a lit cigarette might have worked to remove American dog ticks, but these days the most common ticks people encounter are blacklegged (deer) ticks and Lone Star ticks. In their adult stages, these two tick species attach with great tenacity — they insert their longer hypostomes (mouthparts) deeper into the dermis than American dog ticks, and their hypostomes come with more backward-pointing denticles (barbs).

Deer ticks also secrete a cement-like substance that glues them into the skin of the host. When the ticks become filled with blood, they secrete enzymes that dissolve the glue, allowing the tick to detach. Attached nymphal-stage ticks are just too small to touch with a lit cigarette without risking a skin burn or making the tick vomit into the bite site. Nymphs also attach with great tenacity.

Our testing staff at Tick Encounter have tried more than a dozen reportedly foolproof methods for tick removal, but pointy tweezers that allow you to grab even poppy-seed-sized nymphs close to the skin have proven to be the most consistently reliable means of removing all species and stages of ticks safely. Even if the hypostome breaks, the germs that can make you sick are further back in the tick’s body: in the salivary glands and gut.

If you want to get even with ticks, wear tick-repellent clothing they have to crawl over to get to you. They’ll die, and they probably won’t even get a chance to attach to you.

EARLY REMOVAL

Nobody enjoys discovering a tick that’s dug its way into the skin by using its mouthparts in an effort to feed on blood. Ticks actually secrete a numbing agent, a kininasis, before digging in.

That’s why you don’t feel them. But once you’ve discovered one, it’s important to remove it right away.According to the University of Rhode Island TickEncounter Resource Center, Pathogen transmission only occurs after 24 hours of attachment.

Because one rarely knows exactly when a tick first penetrates the skin, especially on a youngster, prompt removal is essential in order to avoid the risk of Lyme disease or other tick-borne illnesses.