It’s a cloudy, warm day and you’re walking your dog in the park. You’re immersed in nature with trees arching over the trails, the sound of the stream in the distance, and your dog stops to sniff almost every tree. You don’t mind. It’s a beautiful day. However, you don’t think about the blood-sucking creature waiting to crawl on your dog, or your exposed ankles. You don’t think about how it could give you or your dog Lyme disease in 24 hours.
It’s a mistake not to think about ticks.
A few popular myths include the following:
- Ticks are only a threat during warm, humid seasons.
- Ticks jump on humans and animals to suck their blood.
- There’s a good chance you’ll get Lyme disease if a tick bites you.
Actually, ticks are active during winter, often crawl instead of jump, and transmit Lyme disease less than commonly believed.
These parasites are arachnids, close relatives to spiders, and can bite animals and humans. The three most common types, blacklegged ticks (deer ticks), American dog ticks, and lone star ticks can attach to a human or animal’s skin and feed off their blood.
A tick’s size varies on the type and stage in its life cycle: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph, or adult, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). After hatching from an egg, they need blood at every stage to survive.
Exposure to ticks is high in the woods because they like to live in bushes and trees, and the fringe area between the woods and the border. Ticks need moisture to survive and are often found near water, such as a stream or a pond.
Most people don’t realize that 75 percent of ticks are picked up at the home. Just feet from your house, ticks can be found living in woods, under bushes and vegetation and may jump or crawl to attach to someone or something.
American dog ticks are the biggest and most common. They can transmit the Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia, if attached to a human or animal.
The blacklegged tick, the smallest of ticks, bites humans and animals in the winter months. They crawl, not jump. About 50 percent of blacklegged ticks carry Lyme disease and they must be attached to skin for 24-48 hours to transmit it to humans and animals.
The lone star tick is mainly found in southeastern U.S. and cannot transmit Lyme disease, but can transmit ehrlichiosis and southern tick-associated rash illness. They’re becoming more prevalent in Michigan, according tomichigan.gov, and can be found in wooded areas with populations of white-tailed deer.
Moreover, the risk of a tick bite increases in late spring and summer, according to the CDC.
Don’t stop walking your dog in the park — just be careful you aren’t picking up unwanted pets along the way.
When removing a tick, it’s crucial not to break the head. Tweezers will work, but using a cotton swab is a definite way to make sure the entire tick is removed. Dampen the cotton swab and gently apply pressure to the surrounding area of the skin, while pushing the tick in a circle on its head, like twisting off an apple stem.
- In 2013, there were 114 confirmed cases and 54 probable cases of Lyme disease in Michigan.
- About 30,000 cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. are reported every year.
- bullseye-like skin rash
As the disease progresses, it can cause a stiff neck, joint pain, tingling or numbness in arms or legs, and facial paralysis.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Repel in and out of the home.
Use insecticides like permethrin or N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) to get rid of ticks. Always conduct tick checks while returning inside.
Use the sun
Ticks can’t survive in an environment lower than 80 percent humidity for more than eight hours. Reduce tick exposure on a play set by keeping it in the sun.
Monitor the landscape
If you live near woods that are home to animals like deer, mice, and woodchucks that pick up ticks, make sure those animals don’t come near your house.