If you discover a tick or two at home whether on a pet or on somebody, should you be concerned or simply disregard it? It is only a couple of tiny creatures anyway and they are unlikely to become a nuisance. But that pair could multiply and before you know it, your home, your family and your pets are already being annoyed and pestered by tick infestation.
Education is your best defense where most pests are concerned including ticks. They may not at all times pose a threat to you, it is good to know some basic information about what they are, what harm they can do and how they can be controlled.
What are ticks?
They are not insects but parasites that belong to the same category as spiders, scorpions, harvestmen and mites called arachnids, the joint-legged invertebrates. While only a small number is said to be found in the United States, there are over 800 species of ticks worldwide.
During a tick’s nymphal stage, it has 3 pairs of legs but becomes a complete set of eight legs upon reaching adult stage. These disturbing crawlers find ways to attach themselves to hosts to feed on their blood. Tick infestation can happen when you least expect it as there show no evident signs especially on pets. It is a must to constantly check for ticks especially if you live in tick-inhabited areas.
How do ticks develop?
There are four stages to a tick’s life cycle – egg, larvae, nymph and the fully developed adults.
- The female tick lays eggs on the ground.
- The eggs hatch and become larvae, find and feed on a host then drop back to the ground in a number of days, waiting to develop into nymphs.
- When spring comes, the nymphs become active and seek another host for sufficient blood feeding and again fall back to the ground to change into adult ticks, find another host, feed and mate and then the cycle is done all over again.
Where do you find ticks?
Tick types depend mostly by region and not all species attack human and pets. Some are known to simply remain burrowed on a single host, generally an animal. Often, the means by which a tick enters a home is through pets after an activity outdoors.
Most ticks are found in wooded areas or where there are an abundance of bushes and tall grass. They grab every opportunity to crawl their way up or drop themselves onto their target that happens to brush near.
When are ticks most active?
Ticks may seek out their prey during the cold hours of the night up until dawn but they are most active during the warmer hours of the day. This is also why they seem to be everywhere during the summer months.
What is the right way to remove an attached tick?
Your best tool would be a fine-tipped pair of tweezers. Never handle a tick with your bare hands. If you don’t own tweezers, put on a pair of surgical gloves.
- Grab the tick part that is stuck in the skin and not on its belly. Doing so could cause the tick to inject infected saliva into your body.
- Gently pull out so the tick releases its grip on the skin. Do not twist so that you don’t break the body and risk leaving the head buried in the skin.
- Wash the area with soap and warm water then apply some disinfectant.
You may follow the same steps when removing ticks attached on your pet’s skin then apply some topical antibiotic on the area. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after.
What are tick-borne diseases?
These are diseases caused by an infection due to several pathogens and other bacteria and are transmitted by ticks. Ticks are known to harbor more than one agent that can cause illnesses. Common tick-borne diseases include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, Tick paralysis, Tularemia, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Tick-Borne relapsing fever, Anaplasmosis and Borrelia miyamotoi.
Some tick-borne disease symptoms do not show immediately after a bite. Some may take months before signs like fever, lethargy and rashes show.
Does a bite always result to sickness?
No. There are many instances when a bite will not result to anything serious save for a small mark on the skin that would itch a little. A tick has to feed for more than 24 hours before the risk of getting sick begins. It is important therefore to be able to immediately remove a tick once one is discovered attached on the skin.
How can ticks be controlled?
Given the ways they can move into your home, regular cleaning helps in controlling ticks. The action that one must take involves treatment for both home and pets including the immediate surroundings. There are environment-friendly sprays for the purpose of eliminating ticks. The best time for treatments is during tick season when they are most plenty.
Keeping a mowed lawn, removing leaf litter, getting rid of stored but rotting items and cleaning pet areas are also effective ways of reducing the instances of ticks.
What repellents can be used against ticks?
For pets, there are different products ranging from shampoos to sprays, powders, dips, collars to topical solutions. For human use, there are several products with DEET which may be applied on the skin. You may also opt for permethrin to treat fabrics. It is a substance preferred by most because when used to on clothes, the effect can last up to 6 washings.
For those who react to chemicals, there are herbal options available.
Ticks are almost everywhere but you can minimize the risks they pose to you and to your pets. Their presence should not put a stop to your hiking adventures or to your fun time for play and outdoor activities with your dog. Equip yourself with knowledge about them and how you can deal with them effectively.