Tick activity increases greatly in the spring (starting in April or May) when eggs first hatch. Ticks are most active in late June or early July, and slowly become less active during the autumn months.
Ticks are blood sucking external parasites that feed on humans, wild and domestic mammals, birds, reptiles and others. The longer an infective tick feeds, the greater the chance of infection. Ticks seek blood meals at, or slightly above, ground level by climbing onto vegetation and using its forelegs to feel/grab for a host. Ticks are usually found from ground level to three feet above the ground. A tick uses carbon dioxide, scent, body heat and other stimuli to find a host.
Because it takes roughly 24-48 hours for a tick to transmit bacteria, it is important to remove ticks from your skin as soon as you discover them.
- Ticks not attached to your body can be removed with your fingers.
- Do not squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick because its fluids may contain infectious organisms. Wash your hands.
- Using a pair of pointed tweezers, grasp the mouthparts of the tick as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull the tick straight out with a firm and steady force. (Wear gloves if the tick is engorged).
- Wash the area of the bite thoroughly with soap and water. (Wash your hands too).
- You may save the tick for identification by putting the tick in a sealable plastic bag and putting it in your freezer. Or place the tick in a jar of alcohol.
- Watch the bite for signs of a rash for the next month or so. Consult your physician if a rash occurs at the site or anywhere on the body or if you have flu like symptoms after a tick bite.
- Using folklore remedies such as petroleum jelly may make matters worse by irritating the tick and stimulating it to release additional saliva, increasing the chances of transmitting bacteria, viruses, protozoa and toxins.
It is unreasonable to assume that a person can completely eliminate activities that may result in tick exposure. Therefore take the following precautions to protect yourself when exposed to natural areas where ticks are present:
- Wear light colored clothing which allows you to see ticks that are crawling on your clothing. Tuck shirts into pants. Tuck your pants legs into your socks so that ticks cannot crawl up the inside of your pants legs.
- Apply repellents to discourage tick attachment. Repellents containing permethrin can be sprayed on boots and clothing, and will last for several days. Repellents containing DEET (10-30%) can be applied to the skin (not directly on the face, not under clothing or over cuts, wounds or irritated skin), but will last only a few hours and must be used with caution around children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus, offers the same protection as DEET, but cannot be used in children under the age of three. Wash after returning indoors.
- Walk in the center of trails to avoid overhanging brush.
- Check yourself, family members and pets for ticks after leaving potentially tick infested areas and remove any ticks detected. Check body areas where ticks are commonly found: behind the knees, between the fingers and toes, under the arms, in and behind the ears, and on the neck, hairline, and top of the head.
Tick-proof your yard. Ticks that transmit Lyme Disease thrive in humid wooded areas, and quickly die in sunny dry areas.
- Remove leaf litter and clear tall grasses and brush around homes and edges of lawns.
- Place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration to recreational areas
- Mow the lawn and clear brush and leaf litter frequently.
- Keep ground under bird feeders clean
- Stack wood in dry areas.
- Do not feed deer on your property.
Info above taken from the CDC web site, PA Dept of Health web-site and Mayo Clinic web-site.