Protect Yourself from Ticks (And Lyme Disease) This SeasonDr. Jim Fredericks
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Tick Populations are Up, but We've Got You Covered
It's springtime and warm weather is at our doorstep. For many,
that means it's finally time to get outside after a long, dreary
winter. But the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) has
warned that there is good reason to take precaution when spending
time outdoors this season:
tick populations are expected to be extremely high in many
parts of the country this year.
Ticks - especially blacklegged
deer ticks - can be dangerous to humans and pets alike.
They can transmit Lyme disease to humans, as well as dogs and
cats. The increased populations of blacklegged deer ticks this year
means everyone is at a higher risk for contracting Lyme disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) describes the symptoms of Lyme disease as
fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called
erythema migrans, which forms in the shape of a bull's eye.
According to the CDC, Lyme disease can also affect joints, the
heart and the nervous system if left untreated.
So how do you protect yourself? First, it's important to be
aware of what blacklegged
deer ticks look like. These ticks are named for their dark
legs, which are in contrast to their pale bodies. They are much
smaller than dog ticks, measuring only about 1/8 of an inch in
length, and are a flat, broad oval shape. They feed on the blood of
white-tailed deer, which is why they are sometimes called deer
In the United States, blacklegged deer ticks are most commonly
found in the Northeastern region, from Virginia to Maine, in the
north central states, mostly Wisconsin and Minnesota, and on the
west coast, primarily in northern California. If you live in or
visit those regions, you should take steps to prevent yourself from
being bitten by ticks:
- Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes when
outdoors, especially in wooded areas or tall grasses.
- Wear light colored clothing, which makes it easier to spot
ticks and other insects.
- Wear a bug spray containing at least 20% DEET when outdoors,
and reapply as directed on the label.
- When hiking, stay in the center of trails, away from
- Take steps to keep your own yard tick-free. Keep grass cut low
and remove weeds, woodpiles and debris, which can attract ticks and
- Inspect your pets for ticks on a routine basis. Just like
humans, pets can contract Lyme disease from ticks.
- Inspect yourself and your family members carefully for ticks
after being outdoors.
- If you find a tick on yourself or a family member, remove it
with a slow, steady pull so as not to break off the mouthparts and
leave them in the skin. Then, wash your hands and the bite site
thoroughly with soap and water. Ticks should be flushed down a
toilet or wrapped in tissue before disposing in a closed
- Be on the lookout for signs of tick bites, such as a telltale
red bull's eye rash around a bite. If you suspect a tick has bitten
you, seek medical attention.
- Learn the symptoms of Lyme disease and consult with your doctor
immediately if you believe you have contracted it.
- If you find a tick in your home or suspect you have ticks on
your property, contact a licensed pest professional who can inspect
and recommend a course of action to reduce or eliminate ticks on
This year, protecting yourself and your family from ticks will
be especially important. But by being aware and taking steps to
prevent tick bites, you can still enjoy the spring and summer
months ahead without fear. For more information on ticks and this
year's heavy population, or to find a pest control
professional in your area, visit PestWorld.org.