Many of us enjoy spending time in the outdoors. Whether we love hikes, a picnic, or spend time in our garden, one of the most common and dangerous pests can be found right in our own backyard.

Ticks are small, blood-sucking parasites that have a knack for climbing on just about anyone for a snack.

Unfortunately, these nasty little creatures can do more than leave you with a nasty bite mark. Here are the most frequently asked questions about ticks.

Ticks are classified as Arachnida; the same species as spiders. These pests have eight-legs, a variety of species, and survive off of blood meals. These parasites have been around as far back as 90 million years and they still remain a problem for people today.

Ticks are very tiny, about 3/16-¼ of an inch. There are many species, so no two ticks look alike, but they all have eight legs. Their larva is even smaller at about 1/32 of an inch, and the nymphs can be between 1/16-⅛ of an inch. These parasites latch, feed, and bloat as they become full.
“Hard” ticks can latch and feed for days, while “soft” ticks can transmit deadly diseases.

Ixodidae, or hard ticks, are difficult to crush. They have a tough scutum and when they latch, they feed for hours. They feed on small mammals or birds to start, and gradually move up. They need three hosts throughout their four life-cycle stages. Argasidae, or soft ticks, go through seven different stages and they need to feed each time. They have soft bodies and they feed for less than an hour.

Ticks can be found numerous places outdoors. They cling to high grass, trees, shrubs, and hide away in leaf piles waiting for a host. You can encounter them anywhere – not just in the middle of the woods. Ticks can be found as close to home as your suburban backyard.

Warm, moist areas are ideal spots for ticks to latch. If a tick manages to get on you, or your pets, they will look for a place like your groin, armpit, or hair. While most bugs will bite and leave, ticks will attach to your body and feed. They can feed up off a host for up to ten days, but likely, you will spot them as they bloat when engorged.

Yes! Ticks will latch on to nearly any mammal and some birds as well. Reptiles and amphibians are not off limits either. Ticks will latch on to many different animals to survive. Dogs and cats are risk, especially if you live in a mountain area. Ticks will latch to your pets and are hard to find in their fur. It’s important to keep your pets treated with flea and tick medication to keep them safe.

The tick has a wide array of different types. The most well-known tick species are:

  • The American dog tick
  • The lone star tick
  • The blacklegged (deer) tick
  • The brown dog tick
  • The winter tick

Each of these mites can latch on to a host and possibly transfer a serious illness.

Ticks start off small in larva stages. From there, they graduate to nymphs and eventually to adults.

Tick bites are essentially harmless, unless you are allergic. If you are, you may experience swelling and pain, a rash, burning, or blisters near the bite site. In severe cases, you could have difficulty breathing. While the bite itself is harmless, some ticks pass diseases through their saliva that could potentially be very harmful.

After discovering a tick bite, you may experience some symptoms from a possible tick-borne illness. You may develop a red spot or rash near the bite that could evolve into a full body rash. Other signs include a stiff neck, headache, nausea, or nausea. Bite victims can feel muscle or joint stiffness; experience a fever and chills, or swollen lymph nodes. If you experience any of these side effects, you should seek medical treatment immediately.

Tick bites are fairly easy to identify, usually because the mite is still attached. They can latch and stay on your skin for up to ten days. Normally, there will only be one bite site, since ticks do not bite in lines.

The most common diseases you can contract from a tick are as follows:

  • Lyme disease
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Colorado tick fever
  • Tularemia
  • Ehrlichiosis

The most common tick-borne illness is Lyme disease, which when left untreated can spread to your joints, heart and nervous system. Rocky Mountain spotted fever results in a fever, malaise, and a rash. It can be fatal if not treated properly. In addition to humans, your pets can suffer from these diseases as well.

The most important thing to do first is to remove the tick carefully. The last thing you want to do is leave part of the pest inside your body. While there are many ways to go about tick removal, the best method is to use a tick removal tool or tweezers. When you grasp the tick, go as close to your skin as possible and pull straight up with steady pressure. Avoid twisting or pulling to avoid breaking the parasite in half. Be sure all parts are removed.

Once you’ve removed it from your skin, clean the site thoroughly with soap and water. Keep an eye on your bite and be mindful of symptoms of any tick-borne illnesses.

Do NOT throw away or flush the tick. Submerge it in rubbing alcohol to be sure it’s dead, and keep it in a sealed container. If you should develop symptoms or decide to go to the doctor, it can assist in your diagnosis.

The best way to prevent getting a tick-borne illness is by avoiding ticks to begin with. If you plan on going outside or venturing into the great outdoors, wear a long sleeve shirt and pants. If you are hiking in woods or areas with high grass, be sure to tuck your pants into your boots. When walking trails, stay away from overgrown areas and keep to the center of the trails. Before venturing out, use a tick repellent that contains a least 20 percent DEET. If you frequent the outdoors, you may want to get your clothing treated with permethrin. Be careful to inspect your hair and skin closely after going out and bath afterwards. For your dog or cat, be sure you apply fly and tick medicine to keep them safe as well.


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