5 Fast Facts about Ticks and People
Tick, tick, tick…
In case you missed the announcement, the countdown to tick season has ended and depending on where you live, these nasty little bloodsuckers are now out in full force.
Here are five facts to know about these arachnids and how they can affect you.
Ticks can be found throughout the United States.
According to the CDC, Alaska is the only state that so far doesn’t have naturally occurring ticks. The rest of the U.S. (even Hawaii, who has the brown dog tick), has one or more types of ticks. While some occur only in the spring and summer, others can be found year-round, especially if winter temperatures are above freezing.
There is more than one kind of tick.
- American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis) — Widely distributed east of the Rocky Mountains and in limited areas on the Pacific Coast.
- Blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) — Widely distributed in the northeastern and upper midwestern United States.
- Brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) — Throughout the U.S.
- Gulf Coast tick (Amblyomma maculatum) — Coastal areas of the U.S. along the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico.
- Lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) — Widely distributed in the southeastern and eastern United States.
- Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni) — Rocky Mountain states and southwestern Canada from elevations of 4,000 to 10,500 feet.
- Western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) — Along the Pacific coast of the U.S., particularly northern California.
A tick bite is more than just an irritation.
A tick bite can cause more than just an irritation at the bite site. Depending on the type of tick, symptoms can include:
- Fevers and/or chills
- Aches and pains
- Rash, which can vary depending on the type of tick and related illness: Lyme disease, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), ehrlichiosis and tularemia.
A reaction to a tick bite can take several weeks to appear.
Not all tick bites cause immediate discomfort, with most generally painless. It’s only after the tick falls off or is removed that symptoms can occur, according to What Are Signs and Symptoms of a Tick Bite?, with some reactions taking days to weeks to appear. This can make it challenging for healthcare providers to identify a tick-related illness, unless the patients say they recall being bitten or that they were in tick-infested areas.
Take steps to avoid tick bites.
Start with your body. Avoid direct contact with ticks by keeping out of wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. Use a repellent with 20 % or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin and products with 0.5% permethrin on your clothing.
Once indoors, shower ASAP then do a full-body check (including your scalp) to identify any ticks or bites. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing. If clothes need washed first, either use hot water or tumble dry on low heat for 90 minutes or high heat for 60 minutes.
WHN Expert Tip – Use the Right Repellant. Use the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) online tool to select the repellent for mosquitoes, ticks or both.
Have pets? Check them, too since vaccines are not available for all the tickborne diseases that dogs can get, and they don’t keep the dogs from bringing ticks into your home.
WHN Expert TIP – Seek Vet Advice. Don’t use tick repellant designed for humans on your pets. Instead, ask your vet what tick preventive is best for them, and don’t use a canine preventive on your cats without first consulting your vet, says the CDC.
Create a tick-free zone in your yard. Using acaricides (tick pesticides) can reduce the number of ticks in treated areas of your yard. Then, keep your yard free of trash, leaf litter and tall grasses and brush, mow frequently, and use a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas.
For More Information
CDC: Ticks – Information on ticks including how to prevent them, remove them and identify them.
e-Medicine Health: Ticks Topic Guide – Comprehensive section on ticks
Lyme Disease Association, Inc.: About Lyme: – Specific information about Lyme disease, usually transmitted by the bite of an infected tick (Ixodes scapularis in the East, Ixodes pacificus in the West.)
Medline Plus: Tick Bites – Comprehensive section covering the basics about ticks and tick-related illness as well as research and resources.
University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center (TERC) – TERC resources to help you learn and promote the most up-to-date, effective, tick-bite prevention techniques. TERC promotes tick-bite protection and tick-borne disease prevention by engaging, educating, and empowering people to take action.