Avoiding Ticks this Summer

With summer here, you are bound to spend more time in the great outdoors and enjoying soaking up the sun. However, while you are taking in Mother Nature, you probably want to keep the outdoors in the outdoors right?

One helpful way of keeping everything in the outdoors is to be aware of what is around you. One thing people certainly don’t think about often enough while hiking, camping, and similar activities are ticks.

Here are a few helpful tips on dealing with ticks in Virginia this summer:

Identifying the Culprits

Virginia is home to many critters, but we see four kinds of ticks mostly about in the wilderness. These ticks are the lone star tick, the American dog tick, the brown tick and the deer tick.

The Lone Star Tick

The lone star tick is about 5 mm in length or less with long mouthparts. It is light reddish-brown with a central white spot on the back of most of the adults. These ticks are found predominately throughout the east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You need to be aware of the lone star tick as they potential carriers of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF).

The American Dog Tick

The American dog tick is about 5 mm in length with short, stout mouthparts. It’s dark brown with light wavy lines on its back. Additionally, these ticks are found west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Like the lone star tick, the American dog tick is a known carrier of RMSF.

The Brown Tick

The brown tick is around 5 mm in length with short, stout mouthparts. It is distinguished from the American dog tick by its dark reddish-brown color and lack of any white markings. The brown tick can be found throughout Virginia but tends to be uncommon and is not known to carry any disease in Virginia.

Deer Tick

The deer tick is a small tick about 2-3 mm in length with long mouthparts. It is off-white or reddish when fed and has black legs. The deer tick is uncommon also and is found primarily in the northern and eastern sections of Virginia. However, the deer tick is a potential carrier of Lyme disease and has been implicated in the transmission of ehrlichiosis.

Diseases Transmitted by Ticks

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

To transmit something like RMSF, the tick needs to be attached to a human host for four to six hours. If you start to feel a severe headache, chills, fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting or other flu-like symptoms, you may be at risk. These signs will manifest themselves usually 2 to 12 days after the initial tick bite.

On the third day after the bite, a red rash develops on the wrists and ankles, in most cases, and often spreads to the entire hand or foot. It will require a blood test to confirm the disease, and early use of antibiotics has a very high rate of cure.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease initially develops as an oblong rash, usually 2 or more inches in size, with a clear center that forms at the site of the tick bite. For a human to contract Lyme disease, the offending tick will need to be attached for 36 hours. People who have been affected by Lyme disease will develop flu-like symptoms such as nausea, headache, fever, chills, and stiffness in joints, among others. Chronic symptoms of a small percentage of untreated people include arthritis and nervous system complications.

Steps to Avoid Ticks

To help you stay away from these ticks this summer, here are few helpful tips to keep in mind from the Virginia Department of Health:

  • Avoid tick infested areas such as tall grass and dense vegetation
  • Walk in the center of trails and avoid brushing against weeds and tall grass
  • Keep grass and underbrush cut and thinned
  • Wear light colored clothing so ticks can be found easily
  • Tuck pant legs into socks so ticks stay on the outside of pants
  • Conduct tick checks on children and pets every 4 hours
  • Keep pets outside from April to September to help keep ticks out of the house
  • Use tick repellents that contain at least 30% DEET
  • Ask your veterinarian to recommend tick controls for your pets
  • Treat your lawn with an approved pesticide for tick control
  • Treat clothes with permanone (be sure to follow all label precautions)

Lastly, ticks are best removed with tweezers or by wrapping the tick in tissue paper and pulling out with fingers. Do not twist or jerk, and pull slowly to avoid leaving the mouthparts in the wound. Many people think that using items such as nail polish, petroleum jelly, alcohol, or hot matches will remove the tick. This is not true!

After the tick is removed, you will need to wash the wound with an antiseptic after the tick is removed. Kill the tick in rubbing alcohol and keep it in a small vial for a few months in case any disease symptoms develop.

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