It’s a Bad Tick Season – So Get Tick-smart

Right now, we’re in the thick of a bad tick season.

“May is the tickiest time of the year for the country,” says Dr. Thomas Mather, director of the University of Rhode Island’s Center for Vector-Borne Disease and its TickEncounter Resource Center. “This May, certain species are more abundant than before.”

Mather told us that people across the country are not only reporting higher numbers of ticks, but they’re also seeing a greater diversity of tick species.

“Over the last year or two we’ve seen an increase in Lone Star ticks and Black-legged, or deer ticks, in places they never were before,” he says. “Why is that? Probably, because of the increased population of white-tailed deer, which is the principle reproductive host for ticks.”

If you travel and spend time outdoors, you’re more likely than ever to have an encounter with ticks, which can carry harmful diseases and pathogens. We recommend you check out the super-informative website for the TickEncounter Resource Center. And heed the following wisdom we gleaned from Mather and the website.

First Thing to Do: Get Tick-smart

“Our whole approach is to get people to be tick smart,” says Mather. “Knowing a little bit about ticks and what their habits are helps you build the most effective strategy against tick bites.” So, visit the TickEncounter site to learn what ticks you’ll likely encounter, when they are present and what nasty things they carry. Hit the Tick Identification button, go to the Current Tick Activity page, and click on the map to see the ticks biting in your area.

Learn Which Species Appear in Your Region

“Most people see ticks as one thing, but there are nine species of ticks in this country,” says Mather. Right now, Black-legged ticks in the nymphal stage (about the size of poppy seeds) are appearing in the Eastern U.S., the Carolina’s, coastal Georgia and the upper Midwest. At The Adventure Post headquarters in Alabama, we’re seeing nymphal Lone Star ticks, which aren’t quite as big as poppy seeds.

Various Ticks Carry Different Diseases

“Different tick species are associated with different infections,” says Mather. For example, Lyme disease can be transmitted to people from adult Black-legged ticks, while the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick can cause Colorado Tick Fever or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Study up on ticks and you’ll learn that the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick appears mostly from April to June and disappears by August, when it gets hot and dry at higher elevations.

5 More Important Facts (text taken from interviews and the TickEncounter website)

1. Ticks crawl up

Sawyer Permethrin spray

Ticks don’t fly or fall from trees – they crawl up, because “they want to blood feed around the head, neck and ears of their host where the skin is thinner and hosts have more trouble grooming.” So your prevention strategy should begin from the ground up. Nymphal deer ticks — the ones the size of poppy seeds — hide in leaves, so they’ll crawl up from the ground. To avoid them, treat your shoes with Permethrin repellent, such as the spray by Sawyer.

Lone Star tick nymps hang out a bit higher than the leaves, and they’ll crawl up your legs, so use Permethrin spray to treat the inside of pants or shorts, or get clothes pre-treated with a repellent like Insect Shield. (Brands Such as Ex Officio and L.L. Bean have clothng with Insect Shield.) “Ticks are more likely to walk up the inside than the outside of your shorts,” says Mather. “If a tick rubs against permethrin for five to 30 seconds, they’re likely to get a dose that will cause them to fall off and eventually die.”

2. Tick-transmitted diseases are now more common

Scientists are finding more and more disease-causing microbes carried by ticks, including Lyme disease bacteria, Babesia protozoa, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia and encephalitis-causing bacteria.

3. Only deer ticks transmit Lyme disease

You can get Lyme disease only from deer ticks (also called Black-legged ticks) and their cousins around the world (sheep ticks in Europe; Taiga ticks in Asia). Dog ticks and Lone Star ticks don’t seem to transmit Lyme. Important tip: If a tick bites you, save it and take it to the doctor for identification.

4. It might take 24 hours to become infected

It takes at least 24 hours for some disease bacteria, such as Lyme disease bacteria, to make its way into a tick’s saliva and be transmitted to a person. If you’re in tick country, do a daily tick check when you take a shower or bath.

5. Remove ticks with pointy tweezers

Use really pointy tweezers to remove a tick as if you were removing a splinter. Try to grab the mouthparts right next to the skin. Don’t try to kill it by squishing it, because that will push germs to the front end of the tick, which is attached to your skin. Also, things like hot matches and Vaseline don’t work as consistently as tweezers.

Here’s a video that shows how to remove a tick…

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