Ticks have become an increasing problem to people and animals in the United States. In order to survive and reproduce, a tick must feed on the blood from an animal or human.
What diseases are caused by ticks? A bite from a tick can cause anything from a mild irritation to, in the case of some ticks, paralysis. A large number of ticks on an animal can cause anemia, weight loss, and even death. Ticks can also transmit many diseases to humans.
In North Carolina, the most common tick-borne disease is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Ticks can cause several other illnesses and diseases such as Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI).
What are the symptoms? Symptoms of tick-borne diseases may include:
- muscle pain
- lack of appetite
- severe headache
- joint pain
These symptoms may occur from 3-30 days after a tick bite, depending on the disease. Tick borne illnesses should be treated by a doctor and most people will have a complete recovery.
How to prevent tick diseases:
- Wear light-colored clothes that will allow you to see ticks that may get on you.
- Tuck your pants legs into your socks so that ticks cannot crawl up the inside of your pants.
- Use a repellent to keep ticks from attaching. Repellents that contain permethrin can be sprayed on boots and clothes and will last for several days. Repellents that contain DEET (n, n-diethyl-m-toluamide) can be put on the skin, but will last only a few hours before more is needed. Use DEET carefully on children. Large amounts can be harmful.
- Check your entire body for ticks after you’ve been in outdoor areas where ticks may be. Remove any tick you find. (See below for the safe way to remove a tick.)
- Parents should check their children for ticks, especially in the hair, when they have been in an area where ticks may be found. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothes or pets. They may not attach right away so both should be checked carefully to make sure that no ticks are present.
What is the best way to remove a tick?
- Use fine-tipped tweezers, and protect your fingers with a tissue, paper towel, or latex gloves. Avoid removing ticks with bare hands.
- Take hold of the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull up slowly until it comes off. Do not twist or jerk the tick. This may cause the mouth of the tick to break off and stay in the skin. (If this happens, remove mouth parts with tweezers. Call your doctor if you or your child gets sick. Be sure to tell them when you removed the tick).
- After removing the tick wash the area well, and wash your hands with soap and water.
- Do not squeeze, crush, or puncture the body of the tick. The fluids inside may cause infection. If any of the tick fluids gets on your skin, clean the area very well with soap and water and disinfect with rubbing alcohol.
- Place the tick in a plastic bag, close it well, and put it in your freezer. Write the date of the bite and how long the tick was attached on a piece of paper and place it in the bag. Saving the tick and this information may help your doctor to make an accurate diagnosis in case you get sick.
Did you know …
Ticks don’t only feed on humans, dogs and cats. They also feed on many different kinds of mammals, birds, reptiles, and even amphibians.
For more information, visit the CDC website.