It’s tick time — unfortunately.
With the arrival of warmer temperatures, Hoosiers are getting outside. That also means blood-sucking ticks are out, too.
There are three common species of ticks in Indiana that carry at least nine different pathogens that can transmit diseases to humans. That’s why experts say it’s critical to take steps to protect yourself from ticks and to know what to do if you’ve been bitten.
How to protect yourself from ticks:
- Ticks most commonly are found on the ground, in brush and on the leaves of low plants. They usually transfer to humans on their feet and lower legs. That’s why it’s recommended, if possible, to wear close-toed shoes, long pants tucked into socks and long sleeves.
- There are also repellants that can help keep ticks away. Experts recommend regularly applying a repellant with at least 20% DEET and that has an EPA registration number on it showing it’s approved by the government.
- There are different treatments that pest control companies can apply around properties on a monthly or quarterly basis to help keep ticks at bay. It’s also recommended to clear tall grasses and brush around homes and edges of lawns to limit tick migration.
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What does a tick look like?
- Ticks are wingless and have a single, oval body that is relatively flat (unless it is filled with blood). Adult and nymph ticks have eight legs, while larvae have only six legs.
- The “head” of a tick consists of a pair of leg-like sensors that enable the tick to detect an approaching host, as well as a pair of knife-like structures that cut an opening in the host’s skin, and a single barbed structure that becomes anchored in the flesh as it begins to take blood.
- It’s also important to know the habitat for ticks and where you might encounter them. They like moist and humid environments, such as wooded areas, woodpiles, among fallen logs, tall brush and grassy areas.
Do a thorough check:
- Once you’ve been in an area where there might be ticks, it’s important to do a very thorough check all over your body to determine if you’ve been bitten.
- When a tick gets on you, it will often crawl around for hours before it latches in anywhere. It also will excrete a chemical when it bites you so that you don’t feel it the way you might with a mosquito bite.
- While a tick might bite anywhere on the body, it is likely to find a spot where it is less likely to be detected, according to the experts. That includes on the scalp and hairline, where articles of clothing come in contact with the skin and near the groin area.
How to remove a tick:
- If you do find that you’ve been bitten, there definitely are right and wrong ways to remove a tick. Don’t use the old wives’ tales of heating it with a match or drowning it with petroleum jelly or mayonnaise — if anything, that could cause the tick to regurgitate into the wound and pass along further bacteria.
- Instead, grasp the tick with tweezers as close to the head as possible. Ticks excrete something in their saliva that essentially anchors them to your skin. So with the tweezers, apply steady and even pressure, but not too hard being careful not to crush it. Then, pull straight up gently, being careful not to jerk, and the tick will eventually release.
- Make sure to wash and disinfect the tick bite right away.
Watch for symptoms:
- The most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses include fever and chills, distinctive rashes as well as aches and pains such as headache, fatigue and muscle cramps. People with Lyme disease may also have joint pain.
- If you start to develop any symptoms, seek out medical care immediately. Many of the tick-borne diseases can be treated with quick and appropriate medical care.
- Make sure to provide information about the region where you were bitten to narrow down the type of tick and what pathogen might have been passed on.
Call IndyStar reporter Sarah Bowman at 317-444-6129 or email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter and Facebook: @IndyStarSarah. Connect with IndyStar’s environmental reporters: Join The Scrub on Facebook.
IndyStar’s environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the nonprofit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.
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