In today’s blog, one of our guides, Liz, shares her expertise on everything to do with ticks. From identifying species of ticks to preventative measures to keep those creepy-crawlies from biting you, Liz is a self-proclaimed “tick nerd” who has sold flea & tick preventatives for pets for nearly a decade, and enjoys educating people on tick awareness and bite prevention.
Let’s review some important info you can use to protect yourself, your family, and your pets on your next adventure.
How Ticks Move: Where to Find Them
Did you know ticks do not fall (or jump) out of trees? Many people think ticks fall out of trees because we typically find them around our head, neck, and hairline.
The reality is, we don’t normally see or feel them traveling up our clothing because ticks are tiny. Ticks only elevate about 18” off the ground and they love to hang out in grassy areas, in leaf debris, and in dense undergrowth. Ticks don’t drink water like humans do, instead they receive hydration by absorbing moisture through their bellies from the ground.
So, if a tick would climb up into a tree, it would dehydrate quickly and not be able to easily attach to a desirable host like a human, dog, or deer.
Identifying Ticks: Why It’s Important
It’s important to know which species is most common in your area because different species of ticks transmit different diseases.
There are four common species of ticks found in the U.S. They are: the deer tick (AKA the black-legged tick), the lone star tick, and the dog tick. Below, you'll find images of those ticks, reading left to right:
For example, the deer tick (black legged tick) is the ONLY tick that transmits Lyme disease. It’s very helpful to know which tick species bit you, because you can rule out certain risks. Meaning, if you have a lone star tick attached to you, you know you’re not at risk for Lyme disease because only the deer tick transmits Lyme disease.
A undetected or untreated bite from the lone star tick can lead to other diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or even a permanent red meat allergy in humans.
If you’re not sure how to identify the different species of ticks, don’t worry, there are resources available. My favorite tick resource is brought to you by the University of Rhode Island. They even have a special feature on their website where you can submit a tick photo and their tick experts will help identify the species so you can know your risks. Click here to visit the website!
Effective Tick Protection Tips:
Tick protection is key year-round. Despite common belief, ticks do not die in the winter–they are hardy little creatures and can live through multiple deep freezes. Ticks can slow their metabolism down and create their own natural anti-freeze. They are very resilient!
In fact, the deer tick actively seeks a host on days when it’s 32 degrees or above, so be mindful of deer ticks even on those winter hikes.
Lastly, don’t forget Fido…it’s important to maintain tick prevention all year long for your furry friends as well. Even though most dogs are vaccinated for Lyme disease, it’s important to still use monthly tick prevention because ticks transmit more than just Lyme disease.
If you find a tick attached to you, don’t panic! Daily tick checks, wearing clothing treated with permethrin, and using Deet spray is a good start, but it doesn’t mean you’ll have a “tick force field” around you. Ticks may still bite you even when you use these prevention methods. Many tick-borne diseases take at least 24 hours to be to be transmitted. Should you find an attached tick, promptly remove it with a pointy tweezers. Click here to view some guidelines on safe removal of ticks. www.tickencounter.org
Continue to monitor the area once the tick is removed. Should you see a red “bullseye” rash appear, contact your doctor immediately and you will most likely start antibiotics to avoid disease transmission.
If you are leaving on an extended outdoor adventure, a preemptive visit to your physician can also be a great part of your tick prevention plan. A single prophylactic dose of doxycycline can be used to reduce your risk of acquiring Lyme disease after a high-risk tick bite. Before you leave on your next long hiking trip, pay a visit to your doctor to get this prescription, so you can take it in case of a bite from a deer tick.
The Best Way to Prevent a Bite:
Bottom line, don’t be afraid of ticks--just be aware, educated, and mindful. Doing daily tick checks is the best way to prevent complications that may arise from a tick bite. By remaining mindful in your tick prevention and daily tick checks, you’ll most likely spot any attached ticks before they become a problem.
Remember to have fun on your next adventure and recreate safely with ticks using these simple tips and pointers. Happy trails!