Tick Safety Tips!

Stay safe in the outdoors with these easy tick tips! Photo credit NYC.gov.

Tick Safety Tips! Ticks and what you need to know to stay safe! It is that time of year in the Smoky Mountains. Summertime and outdoor activities brings the risk of exposure to ticks for you and your pets. Some basic guidelines for reducing your chances of encountering ticks include avoiding wooded and brushy areas with tall grass and abundant leaf litter. Another great tip is always walk in the middle of trails while hiking. For those bushwhackers out there keep reading to learn how to protect yourself with these facts provided by the CDC.

To repel ticks on skin and clothing always use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours and be sure to follow the instructions included on the product. Parents should be cautious when applying these products to children being careful to avoid the eyes, mouth and nose! Products that contain permethrin are best used on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is sometimes available and may provide extended protection. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a great guide to selection a repellent.

How to find and remove ticks from your body!

  • Showering within two hours of being outdoors can aid in washing off ticks that have not begun feeding on you.

  • Have a loved one, or someone you are not too modest around, to

    Have a friend give you a post hike tick check. Photo credit: Vermont Dept. of Health.

    conduct a full body search. Pay close attention to areas that remain moist like armpits, belly buttons, hair and the crotch area.

  • Check all gear carefully and take a close look at your pets. Those furry friends can’t tell you when they have a tick on them.

  • Wash dirty clothes in hot, soapy water for at least 60 minutes and dry on a high temperature. If clothes are clean dry on a high temp for at least ten minutes.

 The most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses are:

  • Fever/chills: With all tickborne diseases, patients can experience fever at varying degrees and time of onset.

  • Aches and pains: Tickborne disease symptoms include headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. With Lyme disease you may also experience joint pain. The severity and time of onset of these symptoms can depend on the disease and the patient’s personal tolerance level.

  • Rash: Lyme disease, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), ehrlichiosis, and tularemia can result in distinctive rashes:

    • In Lyme disease, the rash appears within 3-30 days, usually before the onset of fever. Lyme disease rash is the first sign of infection and is usually a circular rash called erythema migrans or EM. This occurs in approximately 70-80% of infected persons and begins at the site of a tick bite. It may be warm, but is not usually painful. Some patients develop additional EM lesions in other areas of the body several days later.

    • The (STARI) rash is nearly identical to that of Lyme disease, with a red, expanding “bulls eye” lesion that develops around the site of a lone star tick bite. STARI has not been linked to any arthritic or neurologic symptoms.

    • Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) varies greatly from person to person in appearance, location, and time of onset of symptoms. About 10% of people with RMSF never get a rash. If they do, the rash begins 2-5 days after the onset of fever as small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots (macules) on the wrists, forearms, and ankles and spreads to the trunk. It also occasionally occurs on  the palms and soles. The red to purple, spotted (petechial) rash of RMSF is usually not seen until six days or more after onset of symptoms. It occurs in 35-60% of patients with the infection.

    • The most common form of tularemia results in a skin ulcer at the site where the organism entered the body. The ulcer includes swelling of regional lymph glands, usually in the armpit or groin.

    • In about 30% of patients (and nearly 60% of children), ehrlichiosis  causes a rash. The rash ranges from macular to maculopapular to petechial, and may appear after fever occures.

Tickborne diseases can result in mild symptoms treatable at home to severe infections requiring hospitalization. Although easily treated with antibiotics, these diseases can be difficult for physicians to diagnose. However, early recognition and treatment of the infection decreases the risk of serious complications. So see your doctor immediately if you have been bitten by a tick and experience any of the symptoms described here.

Tick paralysis is a rare disease thought to be caused by a toxin in tick saliva. The symptoms include acute, ascending, flaccid paralysis that is often confused with other neurologic disorders or diseases (e.g., Guillain-Barré syndrome or botulism). Within 24 hours of removing the tick, the paralysis typically subsides.

Ticks find their hosts by detecting animals´ breath and body odors. They also can sense body heat, moisture, and vibrations. Some species can even recognize a shadow. Ticks choose a site by identifying well-used paths; they rest on the tips of grasses and shrubs and wait to ambush a host. Ticks can’t fly or jump but wait for a chance to latch on in a position known as “questing”.

Ticks come in a variety of sizes. Photo credit: Washington State Dept. of Health.

While questing, ticks hold onto leaves and grass by their third and fourth pair of legs. They hold the first pair of legs outstretched, waiting to climb on to the host. When a host brushes the spot where a tick is waiting, it quickly climbs aboard. Some ticks will attach quickly and others will wander, looking for places like the ear, or other areas where the skin is thinner.

How ticks spread disease

Ticks transmit pathogens that cause disease through the process of feeding in the following ways.

1. Depending on the tick species and its stage of life, preparing to feed can take from 10 minutes to 2 hours. When the tick finds a feeding spot, it grasps the skin and cuts into the surface.

2. The tick then inserts its feeding tube. Many species also secrete a cement-like substance that keeps them firmly attached during the meal. The feeding tube can have barbs which help keep the tick in place.

3. Ticks also can secrete small amounts of saliva with anesthetic properties so that the animal or person can’t feel that the tick has attached itself. If the tick is in a sheltered spot, it can go unnoticed.

4. A tick will suck the blood slowly for several days. If the host animal has a bloodborne infection, the tick will ingest the pathogens with the blood.

5. Small amounts of saliva from the tick may also enter the skin of the host animal during the feeding process. If the tick contains a pathogen, the organism may be transmitted to the host animal in this way.

6. After feeding, most ticks will drop off and prepare for the next life stage. At its next feeding, it can then transmit an acquired disease to the new host.

Ticks are a cause for true concern when enjoying the outdoors so take the necessary precautions and stay safe while you are in the wild!



Check out this fast and easy way to remove ticks!

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