We all worry about ticks but is the level of worry more than it should be? Over the recent years it seems folks have become disturbingly worried about ticks and fearful of their transmitted diseases, specifically Lyme. Whether the cause of worry is being more educated or simply buying into all the "old wives tales" I'm not sure but it doesn't really matter.
First off, I need to come clean. I'm no medical doctor or Acarologist but I have scoured the inter webs researching all things ticks for my own personal use, education, and curiosity. I spend a ton of time outdoors through the warm months which inevitably leads me to dealing with these pesky little things.
I've personally developed a solid checklist and routine to follow to not only keep ticks off me but also how to deal with them if one does embedded itself. In this article I want to share what I've learned over the years, break down fact vs fiction, where ticks are commonly found, what they are attracted to, how to keep them at bay, and what to do if you find them embedded in your skin.
WHERE DO TICKS LIVE
While there are several different types of ticks in different habitats across the US, generally speaking ticks thrive in humid environments covered in low lying vegetation. Shrubs, bushes, and taller grasses are all common vegetations where ticks are commonly found. The low lying vegetation provides cover from the sun which aids in the ability to retain moisture. Also shaded areas where wooded areas meet lawns, fields, or other open spots also provides substantial cover from the sun. At times ticks like higher elevations relative to the area.
WHAT ARE TICKS ATTRACTED TO?
Ticks are attracted to anything that produces CO2, so in reality any animal that is living, breathing in oxygen, and putting out CO2. Ticks are also attracted to body heat and the lactic acid produced by sweating. Ticks can also be attracted to the smell of Ammonia produce by sweat and urine.
3 STEPS TO KEEP TICKS AT BAY
1. Tick and Insect Repellant
Permetherin by far is the go to. The success rate of being tick free when using permethrin is nearly 100% for not only myself but also my close circle of hunting buddies. Permetherin is has no smell and is applied to gear or garments not skin. Without much thought I figured it was simply unsafe for exposed skin but after further research it actually breaks down in 15 minutes and is less effective on bare skin. Typically, I spray down all my gear and clothing with a generous dose 24 hrs before any field use. A single application can last 6 weeks or 6 washes, which ever comes first.
For those folks who are looking for a more natural repellant, Cedar Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Peppermint Oil and a few others are talked about in high regard. Although I personally have never used any of the pre mentioned, my wife prefers to use these over store bought sprays and has always remained tick free.
These days there are plenty of hunting clothing companies producing garments with claimed abilities to repel insects. While the concept is intriguing to me, I'd rather spend my disposable income in other areas, partial because of how effect Permetherin application have been. Frankly, I keep it really simple and wear everyday clothing and other hunting garments suitable for the venture. My circle of friends and I have become the poster for the "Tommy Tuck In" method. Pants into socks. Shirt into Pants. Belt. Non porus clothing, socks, etc. ball cap or hat. While this won't win you any fashion awards, I can promise you'll be the source of a few laughs.
3. Stay Out
There's an old wives tale that ticks fall from trees. I've heard this a bunch over the years but after some research on the web I've learned this to be a myth and a crock. Ticks live in areas with moist soils and prefer grassy vegetation. They will cling to tall grass, shrubs, and bushes but typically not over 18"-24" from the ground. Common sense says stay out of these areas and you'll avoid ticks. However, avoiding these areas and still enjoying your outdoor activity are not always possible. Anytime I walk through ideal tick habitat I just take a few minutes to check myself and brush off any little critter looking for a ride.
WHAT TO DO WHEN A TICK IS EMBEDDED?
While this is this not professional medical advice, I'll give you my take....Just pull them out! The goal is to as quickly as possible to remove the tick to help decrease the odds of any disease transmission.
According to the CDC and several other public healthcare entities the best way to deal with imbedded ticks is this.
1. Use tweezer to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
2. Pull upward, with steady pressure. Do not twist, turn, or jerk sharply. If the mouth of the tick or any other part breaks off do your best to get it removed. If that is not possible clean the area and let the skin heal.
3. After removing the tick, clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a living tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag. You can also simply wrap the tick in toilet paper and flush down the toilet.
POTENTIAL DISEASE AND ILLNESS
While tick born illnesses are a very serious topic, there's a lot here to discuss, in fact it could be a blog topic all on its own. For the sake of this article we're going to cover the basics of what you need to know.
Two things to note:
1. Ticks can transmit bacterial and viral diseases. Both are very different, affect humans in different ways, and also are treated differently.
2. Not all ticks carry disease. While this is true, the percentage of those that do carry disease seem to be on the rise over the last decade.
On top of those two points, ticks have to be embedded for a longer period of time (10+ hours) before disease transmission is possible. Thus the importance of finding and removing them quickly!
If you do begin to experience symptoms associated with Lyme, Rocky Mountain Fever, or other tick born illnesses it is best to seek medical attention ASAP.
While this article was written just as a brief overview about ticks to provide some basic information we do recommend doing further due diligence on the web for professional advice on how to deal with these little pesky critters.