The sun is shining and the days are longer! And that means everyone is out enjoying the warm weather and sunshine – including ticks!
There are many different types of ticks. Ticks burrow their mouthparts under the skin and become firmly attached in order to feed on blood. Wood ticks and dog ticks are brown, lentil-sized or larger, and may swell to the size of a chickpea when engorged. Deer ticks are black, very tiny (sesame seed size or smaller), and may swell to the size of a lentil when engorged. Only deer ticks can transmit Lyme disease, although in order to do so, they must remain attached and feed for more than 36 hours. While Tompkins County is considered an "endemic" area for infected ticks, meaning that almost 30% of deer ticks found in the area will test positive for Lyme, there are a number of things you can do to protect your families.
Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in moist and humid environments, particularly in or near wooded or grassy areas. You may come into contact with ticks during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through vegetation such as leaf litter or shrubs. To avoid ticks, walk in the center of trails.
Use a repellent with DEET (on skin or clothing) or permethrin (on clothing and gear). Products containing permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear which can remain protective through several washings. Repellents containing 20% or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) can be applied to the skin, and they can protect up to several hours. Always follow product instructions! Parents should apply repellents to their children, taking care to avoid application to hands, eyes, and mouth.
Check your body for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard. Conduct a body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas by searching your entire body for ticks. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body and remove any tick you find. Take special care to check these parts of your body and your child's body for ticks:
Check your clothing and pets for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing and pets. Both should be examined carefully, and any ticks that are found should be removed. Placing clothes into a dryer on high heat effectively kills ticks.
If a tick is crawling on your child, can be brushed off or pulls off the skin easily, it has not been attached and cannot have transmitted any disease. To remove an embedded tick, take the smallest tweezers you can find and slide the tips under the head, right against the skin, and grab the mouthparts (most of which will be under the skin). Pull very gently but steadily upward and outward – it may take 3 to 5 minutes to loosen the adhesive that cements the tick under the skin. Be patient! It's important to get the mouth parts out, so don't pull on the head or body (that just squeezes more "tick juice" into your child!). Don't try to smother the tick with vaseline (they breathe only once a day!) or burn it off – you'll only damage the skin, not the tick. If a deer tick has been attached and engorged for more than 36 hours, call your health care provider within 24 hours for further instructions. Save the tick in case your health care provider wants to inspect the tick.
For more local information about tick bite prevention and treatment, check out: