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Ticks

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

 

What are Ticks?

 
Adult and Nymph Ticks
Ticks are arachnids, the same classification which contains spiders and scorpions. There are many different species of ticks, varying in size and regions found. Young ticks, and some species of adult ticks, are very tiny, about the size of a freckle or the period at the end of this sentence. Ticks are the leading carriers of diseases to humans in the United States, second only to mosquitoes worldwide. It is not the tick bite but the toxins, secretions, or organisms in the tick's saliva transmitted through the bite that causes disease.

Where Are Ticks Found?


Three Ticks On A Branch
Ticks live in woods, fields and brushy areas. They crawl onto animals and people from the tips of brush, grass and shrubs. Ticks can attach to any part of the body and they are commonly found attached to the lower extremities of humans due to the proximity to the ground.

What Does a Tick Bite Look and Feel Like?

 
Tick Bite
Tick bites are generally painless. Many people may not even notice the bite and may never find the tick if it falls off. After the bite, You may notice local redness, itching, burning, and rarely, localized intense pain (soft ticks). The results of the illnesses transmitted by ticks often begin days to weeks after the tick is gone. That's why doctors may not suspect a tick-related illness. The most important clue about any tick-related illness is to tell the physician about a tick bite. Also, tell your physician if you have been outdoors (camping, hiking, etc.) in tick-infested areas even if you do not remember a tick bite.

What Diseases Do Ticks Carry?

A number of different species of ticks inhabit Northeast Ohio and these ticks can carry a variety of tick-borne rickettsial diseases (TBRD). Some well known examples of tick-borne diseases are:
  • Lyme Disease - Carried by the American Dog Tick and Rocky Mountain Wood Tick. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere. Lyme Disease is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks belonging to a few species of the genus Ixodes ("hard ticks"). Early symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue, depression, and a characteristic circular skin rash that resembles a bulls-eye. Left untreated, later symptoms may involve the joints, heart, and central nervous system. In most cases, the infection and its symptoms are eliminated by antibiotics, especially if the illness is treated early. Late, delayed, or inadequate treatment can lead to the more serious symptoms, which can be disabling and difficult to treat. Occasionally, symptoms such as arthritis persist after the infection has been eliminated by antibiotics, prompting suggestions that Lyme Disease causes autoimmunity.
  • Mountain Spotted Fever - Carried by the Deer Tick, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the most lethal and most frequently reported rickettsial illness in the United States. The disease is caused by Rickettsia rickettsii, a species of bacterium that is spread to humans by Dermacentor ticks (hard-bodied ticks). Initial signs and symptoms of the disease include sudden onset of fever, headache, and muscle pain, followed by development of rash. The disease can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages, and without prompt and appropriate treatment it can be fatal.
While it is not possible to eradicate these pests, you can take precautions to limit your exposure. And in the event of an exposure, knowing what to do and when to seek medical attention can greatly decrease the odds of becoming seriously ill from one of these infectious diseases.

Tick Removal

DO NOT use petroleum jelly or a hot match to kill and/or remove a tick. These methods do not get the tick off your skin and can cause the insect to burrow deeper and release more saliva, which increases the chances of disease transmission.
  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers or notched tick extractor. Protect your fingers with a tissue, paper towel, or latex gloves. Persons should avoid removing ticks with bare hands.
  2. Grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. 
    1. DO NOT squeeze, crush, or puncture the body of the tick because its fluids may contain infectious organisms. Skin accidentally exposed to tick fluids can be disinfected with iodine scrub, rubbing alcohol, or water containing detergents. 
    2. DO NOT twist or jerk the tick as this may cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove mouth parts with tweezers. Consult your health care provider if illness occurs.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site with alcohol.
  4. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  5. Save the tick by putting it into a container of alcohol or place the tick in a sealable plastic bag and put it in your freezer. Write the date of the bite on a piece of paper with a pencil and place it in the bag for identification in case you become ill. This may help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.
 
Tick Removal

Tick-borne Disease Symptoms

Initial symptoms generally include:
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Severe headache
  • Malaise
  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea might occasionally occur.
  • Sensitivity to light might be observed in adult patients.
The onset and severity of these and other symptoms depends on the specific disease. However, in all cases if you suspect you've become ill as a result of a tick bite you should immediately seek medical attention. A substantial number of patients with tick-borne (TBRD) diseases require hospitalization.
Severe manifestations of these diseases may involve:
  • The respiratory System
  • Central nervous System
  • Gastrointestinal System
  • Renal System

Prevention

Limiting exposure to ticks reduces the likelihood of infection with tick-borne diseases. In persons exposed to tick-infested habitats, prompt careful inspection and removal of crawling or attached ticks is an important method of preventing disease. It may take extended attachment time before organisms are transmitted from the tick to the host. It is unreasonable to assume that a person can completely eliminate activities that may result in tick exposure. Therefore take the following precautions to protect yourself when exposed to natural areas where ticks are present:
  • Wear light-colored clothing which allows you to see ticks that are crawling on your clothing. Tuck your pants legs into your socks so that ticks cannot crawl up the inside of your pants legs.
  • Apply repellents to discourage tick attachment. Repellents containing Permethrin can be sprayed on boots and clothing, and will last for several days, but is highly toxic to cats. Repellents containing DEET (n, n-diethyl-m-toluamide) can be applied to the skin, but will last only a few hours before reapplication is necessary. Use DEET with caution on children.
  • Conduct a body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas by searching your entire body for ticks. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Remove any tick you find on your body.
  • Check children for ticks, especially in the hair, when returning from potentially tick infested areas. Ticks may also be carried into the household on clothing and pets and only attach later, so both should be examined carefully to exclude ticks.
For more information regarding ticks and the diseses they carry please visit the Centers for Disease Control Ticks web page.