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Tips and Tricks for Avoiding and Removing Ticks

  • 7/9/2015 11:19:00 AM
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tips and tricks for avoiding ticks | Iowa DNRNot everybody likes bugs and spiders, but even fewer people like a parasite.  But don’t let these little critters keep you from enjoying the outdoors this summer. With some preventative actions, you can help keep ticks at bay.

Ticks are small arachnids that live as ecto-parasites, piercing the skin of a host to obtain sustenance from the host’s blood. While more than a dozen species live in Iowa, the three most common species are deer ticks, dog ticks and lone star ticks. Deer ticks, also called black-legged ticks, are particularly important to recognize because they can carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. The adult tick is not highly noticeable - the legs and body are uniformly dark brown or black and unfed adults are slightly smaller than a sesame seed. Deer tick nymphs are even smaller, and these immature parasites are the primary transmitters of Lyme disease because they’re harder to detect. This species is most prevalent in northeast Iowa, but populations have been reported around the state.

Use these tips to help avoid ticks:

Know When to Prepare Adult ticks are most active from April through September. These warm months are also when people tend to wear less protective clothing and travel more often, making it easier for ticks to attach and travel with you. Check your clothes, gear and luggage as well as your physical person for attached or crawling ticks after outdoor exposure.

Know Where Ticks Live Most ticks prefer to live in dense vegetation like forests with leaf litter or prairies with tall grasses. If planning on visiting a site likely to house ticks, take precautions and check your belongings thoroughly to avoid bringing them home. To keep these pests out of your yard, rake your leaves and mow your lawn regularly. Untreated outdoor furniture cushions need to be checked for signs of wear and changed periodically.

Protect Yourself Appropriate attire can help deter ticks and help people notice before the ticks ever bite. Wearing long sleeves and pants can keep ticks off your skin, and ticks are easier to spot on light-colored clothing. Wear long socks you can tuck your pants into or elastic-ankle sweatpants to keep ticks from finding their way underneath your clothes. Lightweight ankle gaiters are also an option. Repellant with 20-30 percent DEET will help keep ticks off of clothing and exposed skin, but requires reapplication. Permethrin repellants are very effective, but should only be applied to the outer surface of clothing according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Shower within two hours of coming inside to wash off unattached ticks, and check your body closely in a mirror to find any ticks that have already bitten. Look for ticks in places like your scalp, ears, the back of your knees, underarms, and groin area, as these are common tick favorites. Check over any children or pets that have been outside with you, as ticks may drop off and reattach to someone else later. Tumble drying clothes on high heat will help kill any remaining ticks, and large gear can be heat-treated by placing it under a black tarp or garbage bag in direct sunlight for a few days.

Removing Ticks If you do discover a tick attached to yourself, avoid folk remedies for removing it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say this can increase your chances of contracting a tick-transmitted disease. Instead, firmly grab the tick by its head and mouthparts with tweezers and pull directly away from your skin. Unattached small ticks too small to grasp with fingers or tweezers can be removed by pressing the sticky side of a strip of tape against your skin where the tick is located. Clean and disinfect the site of the bite, determine the species of the tick, and discern whether or not the tick you removed appears to be engorged with blood.

If the tick is not swollen, it has likely not been attached for the average 36 hours it would take to transmit Lyme disease. Still, be vigilant for Lyme disease symptoms like fever, rash, inflammation or joint pain for up to a month after being bitten by a tick, and remember where you acquired the tick along with any other identifying information about it. Call your doctor if you experience these symptoms, and tell them about your recent tick bite. To dispose of a removed tick, submerge it in rubbing alcohol, flush it down the toilet, or wrap it tightly in tape and throw it away.