Descriptions of encounters with ticks sound like something straight out of horror. A happy family goes camping. The trip goes wonderfully, until a few members of the family start to get sick. Before long they’re rushed to the hospital. The hospital staff investigates, until it finds the culprit: parasites have latched onto them and are feeding on their blood!
In real life, ticks can appear non-threatening. Most encounters with them, although potentially uncomfortable, are not particularly worrisome. However, the threat of ticks should not be taken lightly, even without the glamour of Hollywood Horror. Ticks are known disease spreaders, particularly of zoonotic diseases like Lyme Disease. An untreated tick bite runs a very real chance of turning into a trip to the hospital.
The two most important things to understand about preventing tick bites is that ticks need humidity and like to stay in places where they can latch on to hosts that brush by them. The good news is this means a tick cannot survive inside a climate controlled home for very long. Finding a tick in your home probably indicates that you should do a thorough inspection of yourself and your pets, but it almost certainly does not indicate an infestation. Outside your home, preventing tick bites is a matter of lawn maintenance. Mowing lawns, raking up leaves, and properly storing dry wood limits places for ticks to hide.
If you are in a situation where you may have been exposed to ticks, such as hiking or on a camping trip, don’t panic. It takes a while for ticks to be able to transmit diseases. Do a thorough inspection of yourself to find any ticks that may have attached themselves to you and remove them immediately. The best way to do this is to simply take as shower. Any unattached ticks will be washed away. Be sure to give extra attention to parts of the body that can be hard to see, like the inside of the ears, the groin area, or the belly button. Wash all dirty clothes in hot water, and run all clothes that may have ticks on them through the dryer on high heat. The high temperatures will kill the ticks. And above all else, use bug spray if you are planning to spend time outdoors. The chemicals in bug spray are highly effective against ticks.
If ticks in your yard have become a regular problem, even with preventive action, you may want to chemically treat your yard. Do not do this without researching first. Some times are more effective than others. Some chemicals are more effective, and safer, than others. It might be in your best interest to consult a professional.
Ticks may look small and unthreatening, but they can become a big problem very quickly. The CDC reports that somewhere between 30,000 and 476,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme Disease aloner every year. Take ticks and tick bite prevention seriously.