Ticks and the outdoors are simply a fact of life. Even if you are not an outdoorsman, ticks can easily present a problem when one infiltrates your home when it hitches a ride on your pet or the pant leg of a family member. As awful as that may sound, tick prevention is possible. As the weather warms, ticks become more active. They will remain active through midsummer and well into the fall for many areas of North America. Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts or those simply venturing beyond the concrete jungle, can take a few common sense steps to prevent becoming a host to one of these blood-sucking hitchhikers and the various diseases they may carry.
Ticks come in two basic varieties: hard or soft. Most often found in wooded, grassy, or other densely vegetated areas, “hard ticks” are likely to hitch a ride on dogs or deer. “Soft ticks,” on the other hand, tend to reside in bird nests and on rodents or bats. Not all species of tick will make its way to humans and cause a problem and no species of tick depends solely on humans for survival. Some species are quite host-specific and accept only a few closely related host species; however, due to the fact that a female tick can lay anywhere from 3,000 to 11,000 eggs, you should not take this lightly. One can become many in very short order.
The best way to reduce the risk of contracting tick-borne diseases is to avoid tick-infested habitat in the first place. An idea that is great in concept but impossible in reality. Particularly, this is not an option for big- and small-game hunters, hikers and morel mushroom hunters, listed below are a few simple precautions that can reduce the chances of a tick encounter.
- Tip #1: Since most ticks crawl upward onto a host, tuck your pant legs into your boots and shirts into your pants. For extra protection, tape such clothing junctures with duct tape, then twist the tape so the sticky side is out and make one more wrap.
- Tip #2: Wear light-colored clothing when possible. This makes it easier to see ticks crawling around before they find their way to your skin.
- Tip #3: Look for a repellent that contains 0.5 percent or more of permethrin. This works as a great tick repellent and can usually be used on clothing. In fact, some products containing permethrin can remain bonded with clothing fibers even through laundering.
- Tip #4: When you return from the outdoors, inspect all your clothing before going inside. Once inside, do a thorough whole-body inspection and wash your clothing as soon as possible.
- Tip #5: Don’t forget to protect man’s best friend. Commercially available dog dips containing amitrax or permethrin can provide canines with tick protection for two to three weeks per treatment. For the very best tick prevention for canines, contact your local veterinarian and inquire about prescribed treatment options, most of which can now last for a month or more.
If you do find a tick, it is recommended it be removed as soon as possible and the affected area disinfected immediately following the removal.
Research trials show the best method to remove a tick is to grasp the it close to the skin with fine-tipped tweezers, placing the tweezers close to and parallel to the skin so that you grasp the base of the tick’s mouthparts rather than its body. Pull gently but firmly, straight away from the skin until the tick comes free. Do not twist when pulling. This could cause the head to separate from the body and remain under the skin. Keep in mind, it’s best to grasp the tick from its back to its belly, instead of from side to side — this helps to prevent the tick’s mouthparts from remaining embedded in the skin as well. The sooner you remove a tick, the less chance it will transmit a disease to its host.
One of the most common diseases transmitted by ticks is Lyme disease.
After a tick bite, Lyme disease may progress several weeks without signs of illness, making diagnosis difficult. After the discovery of a tick, you should check the bite area and look for rings of redness for a period covering the following 30 days after the initial bite. If a red circle develops, or any odd symptoms, be sure to seek medical attention immediately. Years of pain and physical and mental impairment can result if untreated. The other three diseases often show signs within two to five days of a tick bite. They may progress so rapidly that a day or two of delay in diagnosis and treatment may result in death.
If signs of severe or persistent headaches, fever, soreness or stiffness in muscles and joints, appetite loss, fatigue, or a skin rash occur within three weeks after a tick bite, immediately contact your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical.
Field Dressing Tick Infested Animals
I learned a great trick from an old hunter while scouring the hills of Southern California for blacktails. I always carried a can of Coulston’s in my pack. The local deer were always infested with ticks. Once I had one down, I would spray both sides of the deer—being careful to keep the spray away from the wound site. Then I would spray a ring around the deer covering the ground from the deer out to about six feet away. Then, I would back off the deer and wait for about 15 to 20 minutes.
When I would return, a deer that was crawling with a couple hundred ticks would be down to two or three. I also had a tick-free clearing of 6 feet or more around the deer to safely do my field dressing. A few bucks for the Coulston’s was money well spent!
For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html.