Tick Facts

Ticks are small arachnids that feed on the blood of rodents, rabbits, birds, deer, dogs, and humans. Ticks don't fly and don't drop from trees. They climb to the tips of plants along trails and attach themselves to you as you brush against the plant. Ticks may also attach to you if you come in contact with an infested animal.

Staying away from ticks

These tips will help you stay away from ticks:

  • When walking in tick-infested areas, tuck your pants into your boots or socks, and tuck your shirt into your pants. Wear long-sleeve shirts and a hat for added protection.

  • Wear light-colored clothing so you can easily see any ticks that get on you.

  • Apply a tick repellent to pants, socks, and shoes.

  • Don't brush against the plants along trails.

  • Check your clothing and pets for ticks. Remove them to prevent bringing ticks into the house.

  • Shower soon after coming indoors and check yourself and your children at the end of each day when hiking through tick-infested areas. Don't forget to check in and around hair and ears, under the arms, inside the belly button, around the waist, between legs, and on the backs of knees. Check carefully. Ticks that transmit disease can be very small. Some can be as small as a pinhead.

  • Tick-proof your yard:

    • Mow grass often

    • Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns

    • Remove leaf litter

    • Put a barrier of wood chips or gravel between your lawn and any wooded areas near your lawn

Removing ticks

Removing ticks right away will reduce the chance of disease. Here are some tips for removing ticks:

  • If possible, have someone else remove the tick from you.

  • Protect your hands from exposure to the tick by using a tissue or rubber glove.

  • Ticks have hook-like barbs on their mouth, which they use to attach themselves. Use tweezers or small needle-nose pliers instead of your fingers when removing a tick. Grasp the head as close to the skin as possible. Be careful not to squeeze the body. This would inject more fluid from the tick into your skin.

  • Pull gently and slowly away from skin until the mouth parts let go. If the tick doesn't let go, stop pulling. While holding the head with tweezers, slowly turn it 90 degrees. Then gently pull away from the skin again. This movement may unlock the tick's jaw and make it easier to remove.

  • Once you have removed the tick, look closely at the bite area. If you think there are still parts of the tick in your skin that you can't remove, contact your healthcare provider.

  • Wash your hands and the bite site with soap and water.

Don't:

  • Crush or squeeze the tick with the tweezers.

  • Jerk the tick.

  • Burn or prick the tick.

  • Try to suffocate the tick with petroleum jelly or nail polish.

Identifying ticks

Most tick bites are harmless. But some ticks carry diseases, such as Lyme disease, babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. These can spread to people. Lyme disease is of greatest concern. It is carried by only 1 type of tick, the deer tick. Many public health departments can identify a tick to figure out if it is the type that causes Lyme disease. If this service is available in your area, bring the removed tick to the public health department for identification. The tick should be in a plastic bag that seals at the top, or in a jar. If you can't identify the tick and you were bitten in a part of the country where there is a risk of Lyme disease, contact your healthcare provider.

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