Of all the creepy, crawly, critters I have encountered, ticks are one of the few that really give me the heebie-jeebies. They are sneaky little things that live to feed on the blood of animals. They can transmit diseases including: Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis. I would like to avoid all of those things and I’m sure you do as well. So, how do we do that?
Peak tick season lasts from mid-April to mid-July and ticks thrive in areas like forests and brush. They set up camp and wait to hitch a ride on a passing animal or pant leg. Then they explore their host for a nice place to latch on and feed. If you will be spending time in this habitat, do what you can to keep ticks from crawling into secluded places on your body. Wear long sleeves, tuck shirts into pants, tuck pants into socks, wear light colored clothes so you can spot a hitch hiking tick, and apply insect repellent. To repel ticks use a formulation that contains at least 25% DEET. Even if you do all of these things, you may still have a tick by the end of the day, so perform tick checks frequently. One of the most common places to find a tick is on the scalp or nape of the neck. Pets often pick up ticks too, so check them as well before coming inside.
If you find an attached tick, remove it promptly by grasping the body firmly (using tweezers is best), as close to your skin as possible, and use steady pressure to pull it straight out. If the mouthparts of the tick separate from the body, do not try to dig them out from your skin, this could lead to a secondary bacterial infection. Disinfect the area and apply a topical antibiotic. Preserve the tick in a sealed container of hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, or wrapped in an alcohol wipe, in case identification of the species is necessary later. If you experience a fever or flu-like symptoms following a tick bite, seek a doctor for consultation and take the preserved tick with you.
Ohio is home to four species of ticks, three of which are medically important: the American dog tick-vector of RMSF , the blacklegged tick (or deer tick)-vector of lyme disease, and the lone star tick-vector of ehrlichiosis. The brown dog tick is uncommon and not a vector of disease, but it is the only tick that can become established inside homes with dogs.
Don’t let ticks tick you off this summer! For more information about ticks check out Ohio State’s fact sheet on ticks at http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-2073 or contact your Extension Office.