Let’s Talk About Ticks: Identification and Other Things to Know

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Tick
(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

STATEWIDE — It’s become a natural reflex for parents and pet owners each year to check for those little bugs that tuck themselves away on the body.

But did you know that ticks aren’t actually insects? They are arachnids! Like their spider brethren, they have four pairs of legs, and don’t have antenna, nor do they fly or jump.

Here are some more things you should know about ticks before heading outside this season.

  1. There are several different types of ticks that haunt our region. These include: brown dog tick, lone star tick, American dog tick, and deer tick. While the brown dog tick is not known for carrying disease, the other three are. The lone star tick and American dog tick have been known to carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) and the deer tick is known for carrying Lyme disease. Another disease that has been associated with ticks is ehrlichiosis.
  2. You should remove a tick using a pair of tweezers. When finding a tick on you, your loved one, or your pet, the first inclination is to scream and rip it off. That isn’t the right way to do it. Instead, always pack a pair of tweezers. Pinch at the part of the tick closest to the skin because it’s mouth is actually INSIDE of you. Then, pull up carefully and steadily. Finally, flush it or take it to your doctor in a sealed bag for identification.
  3. If you’ve been bitten, monitor yourself for several days. Just because you’ve been bitten doesn’t mean you will show symptoms of illness right away. Monitor for several days following finding a tick. If you develop fever/chills, unusual aches or pains, a rash, and any other unusual symptoms, it is important to consult a physician right away.
  4. There are methods to try and avoid tick bitesDress in light-colored clothing, which will make it easier to spot ticks. Tuck your pants legs into socks and boots, tuck shirts into pants, and wear long-sleeved shirts that button at the wrist. Use insect repellent that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone and follow application instructions. Avoid tall grasses and wooded areas, stay on trails, and keep yard grass cut short and eliminate any wood piles. Also, talk to your veterinarian about methods for your pets.
  5. Ticks go questing. Yes, this does sound like something that would be a cross between a terrible horror movie and a magical arachnid journey. But their attacks are literally called “questing.” Ticks can sense body heat, moisture and vibrations. They wait on tips of grass, leaves or other shrubs for someone to pass by before they quietly crawl onto you and feast away.

Ticks are silent and scary. It is important to follow these and other safety guidelines to try and have a tick-free seasons.

For more information, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has created a handy guide on ticks in Virginia. To see that fact sheet, click here.

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