It is that time of year again. Ticks seem to be everywhere. I find them on me every time I work outside. My family went camping a few weeks ago and found at least two dozen ticks on our tent after coming back from a walk in the woods. Ticks are a nuisance and are also a health hazard for pets and people. Thankfully, there are things we can do to control the tick population in our area and to control how they affect us.
Ticks are parasites that latch on to the skin of both animals and humans to suck the blood of their host. This can cause nasty infections that can lead to sepsis and other serious health issues. In addition, ticks carry serious diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Tularemia, Ehrlichiosis, Relapsing fever, Colorado tick fever, and Babesiosis. Some of these diseases can be fatal if not treated quickly. Because of these potential health issues, it is important that we are proactive about controlling ticks and reactive when a bite occurs.
Overall Population in Your Area
The number of ticks you will see in your area is based on a few different variables. Typically a great deal of moisture and a mild winter will increase the overall tick population. The beginning of the tick life cycle is the egg, and one tick can lay anywhere between 2,000 and 18,000 eggs. To control the population, you can start by eliminating eggs. Certain types of ticks will lay eggs indoors in carpets and other fabric, and other types lay eggs on the ground in protected areas outdoors. If you find the area where eggs have been laid, you can spread salt over the area to destroy the eggs or burn them immediately! If you spread it across a carpet inside, just vacuum up the salt after about a week or carefully take the carpet outside and burn it.
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To help control the ticks on your property and in your home, there are additional measures you can take. Pets are a key point to consider. Often ticks are brought into the home on dogs and cats. Be sure to treat your pets with a flea and tick medication or with a flea and tick collar. This will help control these pests before they make it into the home. In addition, there are contact sprays you can use on your lawn and landscape to kill ticks before they make it into your home. Sprays like Talstar will kill any ticks with which it comes in contact. However, there is no residual so it must be reapplied several times throughout the active season.
Protecting Yourself and Your Family
When you are ready to head into the wilderness for a hiking or camping trip, there are additional steps that can help ensure you remain tick free. Insect repellent with Deet is a common option for repelling ticks from your skin and clothing. However, the best option for treating clothing is a chemical called permethrin. This product is applied to clothing only and allowed to dry. After an application, the product will kill ticks within 30 seconds of contact and it normally is effective until the clothing is washed. If you do not like the idea of chemicals, there are bracelets that you can purchase that do a decent job of repelling most insects. There are also subsonic devices that use sound waves to repel insects. You can find plenty of natural insect repellents, but the general consensus is that they are not as effective as synthetic products.
What to Do with a Bite?
If you have been bitten by a tick, you must be careful about how you remove it. If you simply pull it off, it could leave the head buried beneath your skin. This can cause an infection and can further contribute to the potential for disease. For years the most common way to remove a tick was to strike a match, blow it out, and use the hot match head to burn the tick. It was supposed to cause the tick to release from the skin. However, it often made the tick dig in deeper. Some people would smother the tick with Vaseline or fingernail polish, but this caused a similar reaction. The worst thing you can do is to squeeze the tick as it causes the parasite to spew its internal fluids into your blood stream. The best option is to wet a Q-tip, and then gently roll the body of the tick around in circles until it releases from the skin.
Ticks are dangerous pests and need to be taken seriously. However, there is no need to let them ruin your summer if you take the right precautions. Do what you can to control the population, treat your pets and yard if possible, and use repellent to keep them off of your body. Do a ‘tick check’ every time you come in from the outdoors, and safely remove ticks that you find immediately. With these actions, you can safely enjoy the outdoors and keep ticks from entering the equation.
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