Three Keys

to preventing tick-borne disease

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.

  • 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 birfenthrin. 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.
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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.

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Steps to removing a tick safely:

  1. Use a TickEase specifically designed for ticks
  2. Disinfect with rubbing alcohol
  3. Grab tick close to skin and use a slow, steady motion to pull tick out
  4. Disinfect again
  5. Consider testing for infection
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Life cycle of Babesia microti

Author/Source – TickEncounter

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.

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Tick Bite FAQ

(From the TickEncounter Resource Center F.A.Q.)

1. How do ticks bite without you feeling it?

TERC: Because ticks stay attached to hosts, blood feeding for several days, they secrete novel pain killers (called kininases) in their saliva which help them go unnoticed. If you’ve been bitten previously, you may notice a small red bite mark, which can be itchy. If there’s no tick at such a site, you may have already scratched it off without knowing it.

2. Is there a lab that I can send a tick to to see if it was carrying Lyme disease prior to treating myself with the long series of antibiotics? I was bitten 17 days ago and have saved the tick.
J. C., Middletown, Rhode Island

TERC: We have a number of places listed on our Tick Testing page. You can use our Tick Identification Chart to confirm that your tick is an adult deer tick. Deer ticks are the only tick species that transmit Lyme bacteria locally.

3. The tick biting me was nearly completely embedded under my skin. Does my doctor need to remove it?

TERC: Ticks can only penetrate your skin with their hypostome. Their bodies are never embedded under the skin. Don’t wait to see a doctor to remove a biting tick. It is easy to remove a tick safely by using a pointy tweezers. Don’t worry if the head stays in, just disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol. You also might want to consider identifying and testing the tick for infection.

4. If I find a tick biting me, should I cover it with Vaseline or touch it with a hot match to get it to detach?

TERC: No! These methods were once believed to be best years ago. Now we know that the safest way to remove a tick includes wiping it with rubbing alcohol to disinfect the affected area and then removing the tick with a pointy tweezer.

5. If I rarely go outside, and never go in the woods, how did the tick biting me find me?

TERC: First, you should know that Blacklegged ticks don’t travel very far on their own, perhaps only one or two meters. However, they do get moved around by animals. And pets, particularly cats, are notorious for picking up a tick outside and then bringing it inside to humans. If the tick attaches to your cat or dog, it will not typically leave it, but if the animal comes inside or you pick it up, loose ticks crawling on the animal’s fur can easily transfer over to you. One helpful suggestion may be to make your cat an inside cat during the tick season.

6. I was bitten by a tick recently, and now there is a big red spot. Should I be worried?

TERC: It depends on how recently. Within 3 days of being bitten by a tick, many people will develop a red spot that never expands to bigger than a dime. This is just an allergic reaction to the saliva that the tick is spitting into you. Watch the site, however. If the red spot grows in size over a period of a week or so, to bigger than two inches, then it is likely to be a sign that you are infected with the Lyme disease agent.

7. Is it possible for a tick to become embedded in a person’s scalp so deep that there is no lump there? J.P.

TERC: No! Ticks can only embed their hypostome or mouthpart into the skin. Their palps, which cover the hypostome to protect it when the tick is not feeding, fold back and prevent the tick from going any further into your skin. Refer to www.tickencounter.org and click on learn, then tick-biteology and look at slide 1 for a graphic on just how deep ticks can become embedded.

8. I just pulled a corn kernel looking tick off my 3 month old yorkshire terrier puppy, should I take her to the vet? I don’t know how long the tick has latched onto her, but it might have been a couple of hours ago.

TERC: During the Fall and early Spring in the northeast, mid-Atlantic and upper mid-west, ticks that look like a “corn kernel” are most likely to be partially engorged female deer ticks — most likely attached for about 3 days to look like a corn kernel. Their body generally looks pale at this stage and they have not started to swell up big.
If the dog has the Lyme disease vaccine, you are probably fine. However, 3 days is long enough for a deer tick to begin transmitting Lyme bacteria and the agent of anaplasmosis. If not vaccinated, you could give your vet a call and see if they will take any prophylactic measures.

9. Today I pulled out a dog tick out of my scalp. It was relatively easy to pull out as I only used my fingers to slide it out of my hair. At first, I did not know what that is, of course. After looking at it and comparing it to pictures and descriptions I determined it is a dog tick possibly adult, but fairly flat. Can this type of tick transfer any disease? If yes, how long does it need to feed in order to infect a person? Like I said, the tick I pulled out does not appear to had been feeding very long. Aneta, North Aurora, IL

TERC: American dog ticks can be infected with Rocky Mtn Spotted Fever rickettsia, other less pathogenic rickettsia, Colorado Tick Fever virus, and rarely, with the agent of tularemia. However, in your geographic area, the dog tick infection rate is quite low for Rocky Mtn Spotted Fever and the other pathogens are not known to circulate there either. Hopefully, the only concern is a bit of a tick bite.

10. I was bitten by a tick on 4/29. It was itching terribly, that is how I found the tick. I pulled it off. It was so small I could not identify it. The sight is very swollen, still itches, is red, and seems to be spreading larger. Should I be alarmed or concerned about this bite sight?

TERC: It sounds like a tick bite at this point. In people that have previously been bitten by the same type of tick, there often is a histamine-mediated hypersensitivity reaction that occurs within 20-40 hrs of another tick bite. It’s your body making a reaction to a foreign substance (tick saliva) that it has seen before. In some people it can become quite severe — a localized anaphylaxis. You may want to see your primary medical provider, and be sure to mention your tick bite.

11. When a tick bites how long does it stay attached?

TERC: The length of time a tick stays attached depends on the tick species, tick life stage and the host immunity. It also depends on whether you do a daily tick check. Generally if undisturbed, larvae remain attached and feeding for about 3 days, nymphs for 3-4 days, and adult females for 7-10 days. Deer ticks feed a day or so faster than Lone Star ticks and American dog ticks. You might be interested in our tick growth comparison pictures; ticks change their appearance pretty dramatically as they feed which can make identifying them challenging. Host immunity also can impact duration of tick attachment as well. Prior sensitization to specific proteins in tick saliva can make it harder for ticks to ingest blood. Sometimes it causes them to stay attached a bit longer but more commonly, it makes the host itch and frequently the tick is removed by the scratching.