TICKS TRANSMIT LYME DISEASE
The Blacklegged tick (commonly know as the deer tick) is the primary carrier of the bacterium that causes Lyme Disease, which is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick. Both adult and nymph deer ticks can transmit infections. Although adult deer ticks have a higher rate of infection, the nymph produces more disease because of its small size and difficulty in finding on the body. An adult female deer tick is about 3.5mm long and an adult male is slightly smaller. Nymphs are much smaller than adult deer ticks, at about 1.5mm (or the size of a poppy seed) and consequently more difficult to spot and remove.
MOST PEOPLE NEVER SEE THE TICK THAT BIT THEM
Ticks like to hide in warm areas of the body, like the groin, armpits, navel, head and neck area and behind the ears. You will also often find them around a clothing barrier, like a sock line, underwear line or on the backs of knees where your shorts stop.
TICKS CAN TRANSMIT OTHER DISEASE CARRYING ORGANISMS
Along with Lyme Disease, ticks carry and may transmit other co-infections such as Babesiosis, Bartonella, Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis. Most people who have Lyme Disease also have one or more co-infections.
TICKS ARE ACTIVE IN THE WINTER
Cold winter temperatures do not necessarily kill ticks and heavy winter snowfalls acts like a layer of insulation. Adult deer ticks actually begin their feeding activity around the time of the first frost. During cold weather, ticks will take shelter under leaf litter or tree bark. Here they will stay until temperatures rise above freezing and then crawl out onto vegetation and wait for a passing animal or human. “Temperatures have to drop below 10 degrees F for a long time in order for ticks to start dying off,” according to Michael W. Dryden, DVM, PhD, Professor of Veterinary Parasitology at Kansas State University. “And even when temps drop below freezing, they’re still out there. They may not be as efficient at attaching themselves to a host, but they’re still alive.”
TICKS DO NOT JUMP, FLY OR DROP FROM TREES
Ticks wait on the tips of grasses, shrubs and bushes for an animal or person to walk by and then they climb onto their host. Ticks crawl, and they naturally crawl up to try and attach themselves around the head and ears of the host. If you find a tick attached to your head or back, it most likely started out on the foot or leg and crawled up the body.
TICKS ARE NOT INSECTS
Most people think that a tick is an insect, but ticks are actually small arachnids like spiders, scorpions and mites. They require blood meals to complete their life cycle of egg, larva, nymph and adult. Although they will eventually die if they do not get a blood meal, many species can survive a year or more without feeding.
TICKS DO NOT EMBED UNDER THE SKIN
When a tick finds a feeding spot, it pierces the skin with its mouthpart and inserts its feeding tube. The feeding tube has barbs which help keep the tick in place. Some species secrete a cement-like substance that keeps the tick firmly attached during the meal. After feeding, most ticks drop off the host and prepare for the next life stage.
TICKS FIND THEIR HOSTS BY DETECTING CARBON DIOXIDE
Using a process called “questing,” a tick will pick a place to wait for a host by identifying a well-used path. Here it will sit on a blade of grass or twig, with its first pair of legs extended. A tick’s legs can detect carbon dioxide from a passing animal or person. They can also sense body heat, moisture, vibrations and body odor. Some species can even detect shadows. When the host brushes the area where the tick is waiting, it quickly climbs aboard and latches onto the skin.
photo source: Harvard Medical School
THERE IS A CORRECT WAY TO REMOVE A TICK
The best and safest way to remove an embedded tick is with a proprietary tick removal tool or pointy tweezers. The tick needs to be grasped by the head, as close to the skin as possible, and pulled upward with steady, even pressure. Do not twist the tick or squeeze the body. Do not use nail polish, petroleum jelly or matches to try and remove the tick. This usually forces the tick to burrow deeper. Disinfect the bite area and wash your hands. Save the tick for testing in a small bottle or plastic bag with a damp cottonball.
PERMETHRIN AND DEET HELP REPEL TICKS
The CDC recommends treating clothing with Permethrin to help repel ticks. Treated items remain effective through several washings. Commercially treated tick repellent clothing that lasts through approximately 70 washes, is also available. The CDC also recommends that exposed skin be treated with a product that contains 20 to 30% DEET, in conjunction with wearing treated clothing.
MOST TICKS ARE BORN UNINFECTED WITH LYME DISEASE
Deer ticks hatch from eggs and have three active stages: larvae, nymph and adult. During each stage, the tick will feed once. Each time they feed, they have an opportunity to become infected, with the Lyme bacteria, from the host they feed upon.
THE LONGER A TICK STAYS ATTACHED, THE MORE LIKELY IT WILL TRANSMIT DISEASE
Experts disagree about how long it takes a tick to transmit Lyme Disease. The CDC says that in most cases, the tick must be attached more than 24 hours. Dr. Daniel Cameron, MD, MPH, a nationally recognized leader in the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses and the current president of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) believes that ticks only need to be attached for several hours and do not need to be engorged in order to transmit a disease. LymeDisease.org, an advocacy, education and research organization, reported that in some research studies, 5-7% of nymphs transmitted the Lyme bacteria in less than 24 hours and one case of Lyme Disease, transmitted after only six hours of tick attachment.
WASHING CLOTHES IN HOT WATER WILL NOT KILL TICKS
According to tick expert Thomas Mather, PhD, of the University of Rhode Island, “Washing, even in hot water, will not kill ticks. Only dry heat will.” Immediately after being outside, take off clothes and put them in the dryer on high heat for 15 minutes.