Ticks are hard to spot due to their minimal size (3-5mm in length). They transmit up to 65 diseases ranging from Lyme disease to Tularemia. If you are planning an outdoor adventure on a hot and humid day, it is crucial to have a tick checklist to prevent yourself from tick bites and their consequences. Learn more about tick identification, removal devices, barriers, and prevention methods.
Ticks are classified under Anarchida the same as spiders. They have four pairs of legs, just like spiders. They increase in size and appear inflated after feeding. Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of their hosts (which broadly includes warm-blooded animals). Their prey range from deer to humans. When they find a host to feed on, they tend to suck blood from the softer regions of their host’s skin. The soft spot is commonly found around the hairline, skin folds, and behind the ears of the host. After that, it will cut through the host’s skin with its mouth and insert a feeding tube through the cut it made. This will act as an anchor and allow the tick to suck blood until full.
Tick bites are similar to mosquito bites. You do not feel it when it happens. The host commonly discovers the bite when their skin becomes red and itchy. Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not live on their hosts’ bodies. Because of its increased size, a tick is prone to falling off the host after eating. Because of the irritation and red skin, the host will only learn about it after the tick has fallen off.
In most cases, the tick will come off on its own after a few days. It may take a few weeks in some cases. Outdoors, they can be found in wooded and grassy areas.
How Ticks Transmit Diseases?
Ticks feed on their hosts by inserting a feeding tube into their bodies. The tube is introduced through the cut formed by the tick with their chelicerae. Ticks transmit diseases through this feeding mechanism. It identifies possible hosts from the body odor, breath, vibrations, body heat, and occasionally even their shadows. It may also recognize the path that their potential host takes frequently.
They wait for an opportunity to attach onto their hosts by clinging to the tips of grasses and shrubs with their third and fourth pairs of legs. They do so because they are unable to fly or jump. This position in which they wait is known as questing.
The rate at which a tick feeds depends on the species. Depending on this, it could take anywhere from ten minutes to several hours, depending on various circumstances.
Since the transmitted diseases are vector-borne infections, it’s crucial to understand what occurs if a tick feeds on a host diagnosed with a blood-borne infection. In this case, the tick will consume the pathogens from the host and transmit them to their host in the next stage of their life. The tick will fall off after feeding and prepare for the next stage of its life. When the tick returns to feed, saliva containing the infection from its prior host can enter the new host and disseminate the disease.
Tick Identification Cards And Posters
Ticks can spread a multitude of diseases; hence, it is crucial that when you are outdoors, you can identify ticks. Additionally, you need to be aware of preventive measures to take when outdoors. Tick identification cards are available online for purchase and have preventive measures to take mentioned on them.
They also have identification markers for Lone star ticks, American dog ticks, Deer ticks, and Rocky Mountain wood ticks. The card should also have ways to remove a tick from your body safely. A tick identification card is a must-have for outings. It is a necessary part of every first-aid kit.
Alongside tick identification cards, you can also access tick identification charts and posters online or buy verified ones. These cards and posters will allow you to identify the tick on you or the one that bit you. They will also provide you with safe ways to remove the tick.
Tick Removal Devices
Ticks and their presence can prove to be annoying and dangerous. It is better to have a tick removal device handy when you spot a tick on you. It will allow you to remove the tick and prevent further damage. It is recommended not to use your hands, soap, heat, or vaseline for tick removal.
In theory, when you douse a tick in liquid soap using a cotton ball, the tick will get stuck and come out on its own. But when a tick latches onto a host, they lock themselves using their mouthparts and saliva. Their saliva consists of a cement-like substance. Experts say success using liquid soap is nothing more than a coincidence. On the other hand, applying heat or chemicals like vaseline can irritate the tick. These methods usually present themselves to be the worst.
The application of heat will lead to an increase in saliva production in a tick. If the tick is infected, it will increase the risk of pathogen transmission. Alternatively, the use of chemicals will irritate the tick. They would regurgitate its stomach contents back into you; it will also lead to an increased risk of infection and injection of salivary fluids in the host.
Ticks need to be removed as soon as you spot them. This is done to prevent disease transmission. Resisting the temptation to opt for unconventional methods, it is better to have a tick removal device with or near you. Below are some recommended tick removal devices that might help you to remove ticks safely.
Tweezers are considered one of the most effective tools for tick removal. Apart from that, most households usually own at least one pair of tweezers. If you do not, they are readily available everywhere. Tweezers with pointed tips are used to remove ticks of any size. They are easy to sterilize as well. To sterilize, all you need to do is soak them in rubbing alcohol after use. It is effortless to use them as well. Use the tweezers to grab the tick as close to your skin’s surface as possible.
This is to ensure you can remove the tick in one go. Pull the tick out in a slow and steady upward motion. Do not twist the tick while doing so. It can cause mouthparts to break off and remain in your skin. If mouthparts remain, use tweezers again to remove them. If you cannot remove them, it is better to let them be.
Your body will naturally expel them. After removal, if you want to save the tick to show it to your doctor, either take a picture and then dispose of the tick or put it in a sealed bag to take it to your doctor.
- Tick Key
A tick key acts as a tick removal device, and you can carry it with you everywhere. They are essentially put on a keychain. Compared to tweezers, they are not sharp and do not require you to pull the tick out. Instead, you move it across your skin to drag the tick out. Tweezers can cause a small amount of pain when removing ticks, a tick key does not do so. Though it is an effective method, it does pose certain limitations. Due to its size, it cannot be used on certain parts of your body. This includes the area near your eyes.
- Tick Scoop
It is a single motion removal tool made of plastic. With this, you can painlessly remove a tick from your skin using its v-shaped notch. To remove a tick, place the spoon’s notch near the tick on your skin. The direction does not matter. Apply a little pressure downward and slide the spoon forward. This will frame the tick. Keep sliding the spoon to detach the tick completely. Though it is an effective method for tick removal, it only works best with considerably big ticks. Additionally, the tick spoon is made of plastic, as mentioned before; this makes thorough sterilization harder compared to metal tick removal devices.
- Metal Tick Removal Set
A metal tick removal set can be easily sterilized after use, making them more desirable. The tweezer in the kit is designed with a fine pointed tip and provides better leverage. These features allow it to easily and precisely remove even the smallest ticks. The given notched tool is used in a forward sliding motion to remove considerably larger ticks. Since it is a metal set, it is heavy compared to other tools mentioned. Additionally, they can prove to be uncomfortable, and misdirected use of these tweezers can be painful.
- Tick Twister
Shaped like a garden hoe, this plastic tool requires you to use a twisting motion to remove the tick. It comes in two different sizes, which allows you to remove even the smallest ticks. The smaller size of the tick twister is hard to handle. If you face such an issue, it is better to try one of the other methods mentioned.
Additionally, if it is a dog with long fur from whom you want to remove the tick, this device might not work. While you are trying to remove the tick, their fur can become tangled in the tick twister. Apart from this, it is a plastic tool that makes a complete sterilization process nearly impossible.
Lyme Disease Tick Test Kit
Lyme disease is the most common and well-known of all the diseases transmitted by ticks. It is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii. This disease is primarily transmitted by black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks. The symptoms include a rash that resembles a bullseye and flu-like symptoms.
It is treated with antibiotics that last for two to four weeks. It is most prevalent in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and more. Post-treatment, most continue to experience mild symptoms like fatigue, pain, and more for up to six months. Delayed and no treatment can result in cognitive defects, Chronic Joint Inflammation, and multiple neurological symptoms.
An important thing to note is that the bullseye rash cannot always be used to indicate Lyme disease. Up to 30% of the patients do not report rash as a primary symptom. Additionally, the other symptoms resemble the flu, making it hard for an individual to consider getting tested for Lyme disease.
There are multiple at-home and at-lab Lyme disease test kits that allow you to test yourself for Lyme disease and seek medical help if tested positive. These tests are usually a prick on your finger blood tests. When infected with Lyme disease, your body produces two types of antibodies to fight off the infection. These are
- immunoglobulin M (IgM)
- immunoglobulin G (IgG).
The at-home test will check whether or not your body is producing these antibodies. Do read the instructions carefully when conducting the test since all tests have different instructions. The test comes with account information to receive your results as soon as possible. There are many different tests available in the market, and you can use one based on your preference.
The sample of choice for this test is blood, and you can obtain your results in 5 to 8 days. It is an easy-to-use kit with a user-friendly platform. You register the kit and then take your finger prick. Following this, send the sample to the company where it will be tested. This test will test your blood for the presence of three strains of bacteria. These are Borrelia garinii, Borrelia afzelii, and Borrelia burgdorferi. After the report is ready, you can see a personalized report of everything tested and what the results mean.
EverlyWell tests can be purchased either from Amazon or the EverlyWell website. Their website states that they work with insurance, so there is a chance that your insurance will cover the cost of the test. Independent board-certified physicians approve the tests in your state. They are also HSA- and FSA- approved. EverlyWell works with CLIA certified laboratories.
The sample of choice for this test is either blood or urine. You will have to provide blood samples at a lab approved by IGeneX. From there, the tests will be sent to your doctor for review. Once you order a kit, you will have to fill in the necessary paperwork so that the company can obtain the information they need regarding where to send the results. This test looks for several markers of Lyme disease. This is to ensure the result is as accurate as possible. You also get to choose from five different panels of testing. You can order the test through a physician. IGeneX does work with insurance providers, so it is better to contact yours to know more about the benefits you get from your health insurance policy.
This is a blood test. This test is beneficial if you prefer to go to a laboratory near you. They work with over 2000 labs across the country. This will also allow you to take your sample to a lab that offers same-day testing. After handing in your sample, the result will be uploaded to your account online. How long it takes to upload the results will depend on the lab you choose.
- QuestDirect Lyme Disease Test
You purchase your test and book an appointment at any Quest Patient service center. A medical professional there will collect your sample for testing. When the results are ready, you will receive them on your MyQuest account.
Clothes Tick Spray
One suggested prevention step is spraying your clothes with the insecticide permethrin. Permethrin, necessarily, is chemically similar to the extracts of the chrysanthemum plant when it is flowering. Spraying yourself with tick spray is considered an important measure when going outdoors. In addition to sprays, there is also clothing available that has been treated with insecticides and act as tick repellents.
- Sawyer Products Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent
This spray allows you to treat your clothes with permethrin and make them tick repellent. To start, you soak your clothes in the spray, allow them to dry, and then wear them for your time outside. One thing to note here is that when you treat the clothes with permethrin, they only retain their properties for at most six washes and at most for six weeks. Do not spray it directly on your skin. It is affordable, readily available, and highly effective.
- Pesticide Treated Clothing
Instead of buying a tick spray (permethrin), you can also choose to purchase pre-treated clothing. The advantage here is that you can wash it over and over again, and it will still retain its tick repellent properties. On the other hand, when you treat clothes on your own, the effect wears off after a certain specified amount of time. These clothes are available in socks, hats, and t-shirts.
- OFF! Deep Woods Mosquito And Insect Repellent Towelettes
Multiple experts recommend DEET as one of the most effective tick repellents. Based on EPA’s suggestion, the concentration of the active ingredient in any product with DEET should be twenty to thirty percent. It is noted that against ticks, DEET is effective for only eight hours. These towelettes are soaked in twenty-five percent DEET and effectively work against ticks.
- Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent With 20% Picaridin
Picaridin works as an insect repellent that can be directly applied to a person’s skin, and it works effectively against ticks as well, primarily deer ticks. DEET products, though effective, tend to make your skin oily and uncomfortable, while picaridin is more pleasant to the skin. Do ensure you do not get picaridin on your face and eyes.
- Artizen Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Essential oils, though effective, can only be used to add an extra layer of protection to other preventive measures taken. They should not be used as a primary source of protection. Lemon eucalyptus essential oils are said to be effective repellents for deer ticks. These oils help double up your protection but are less effective when used in isolation.
- Bayer Animal Health Seresto Flea And Tick Collar For Dogs
Dogs are more likely to contract ticks than humans, and if you have a pet dog, it is important to know how you can protect it and yourself from ticks. Multiple experts recommend Bayer Animal Health Seresto Flea and Tick Collars. It lasts for at least six months and will work to prevent the tick from biting your dog. You need to replace the collar on your dog twice a month.
Tick Control Tubes
People who live in tick-infested areas should take steps to eradicate ticks from their yards. In general, mice tend to be the first host for most tick species. Tick control tubes or tick tubes allow the elimination of ticks. They have proven to be effective for years now. These tubes are usually made of biodegradable material and filled with cotton treated with insecticide (usually permethrin). Since it is made using biodegradable material, they are environmentally friendly. They cause no harm to their users and the environment. Since sprays (insecticides) can not reach and work everywhere, these tubes do wonders in tick eradication.
As mentioned, larvae and nymph ticks tend to feed on mice. This usually becomes the point where ticks get infected with varying pathogens. For instance, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Mice are nocturnal animals (meaning they sleep during the day); when you get a spray treatment done for your yard to get rid of ticks, it can very well miss the ticks on mice because of this.
Generally, spray treatments only allow you to get rid of ticks, usually adult ticks, in the grass, questing or roaming around. At the same time, mice are burrowed deep in the ground because they can escape the spray. The ticks on mice remain safe and alive. Tick tubes come in handy in this situation.
The material of the tick tubes reaches areas the spray simply cannot. When mice contact the insecticide on the cotton, it rubs off on their fur and makes the mice tick repellent. Some mice use the cotton in the tick tube treated with insecticide as bedding for their nests. The cotton is not harmful to the mice, but the chemicals it is treated with will effectively kill the ticks on them.
These tubes only need to be put out twice a year, once in spring and summer. Since most of the tick tubes available in the market are biodegradable, you do not need to worry about collecting and disposing them after use. The tick tubes need to be carefully placed since they have been placed will help you decide how many you need each time. They are generally placed in areas around your property with huge piles of trash.
Storage sheds are also a good place to place tick tubes alongside areas with dense shrubs. These areas also include places close to vegetable gardens, root cellar entrances, under bushes, and more. Mentioned areas usually serve as areas where mice reside and are ideal for tube placement.
You need to check every few days to see if mice visit the tube and take the cotton wadding. This will allow you to carefully plan how many tubes you need and what areas they are practical.
There are multiple options to choose from for tick control tubes.
- Damminix Tick Tube
Damminix tick tube is readily available at almost every major retailer and is a highly reliable product. Like most tick tubes, it is biodegradable. It is affordable and comes in a pack of twenty-four. According to the product description, twenty-four tubes will provide you with half an acre of coverage. The on-field review suggests the twenty-four tubes can offer more coverage than that depending on personal use. The insecticide used is permethrin. It is a highly effective product that has proven itself to be useful.
- Thermacell Control Tube
Thermacell control tubes are also readily available in stores and online. They are highly effective and can be bought in varying quantities. Like any other tick control tube, it works extremely well if placed well. This means avoiding spots that will get wet repeatedly. According to the product description, six tubes cover one-fourth of an acre.
- Make It Yourself
Some people opt for DIY tick tubes since tick tubes possess a very simple structure. Multiple tutorial videos on YouTube can guide you to make tick control tubes correctly. You can purchase manufactured tick control tubes for first-time use and reference since these are processed with quality control. You can also try to make yours using real permethrin to enhance effectiveness.
Tick Barrier And Traps
There are multiple tick traps, and barriers are available that help reduces tick populations and prevalence in residential territories.
- Carbon Dioxide Traps
Ticks are attracted to carbon dioxide emitted by their potential hosts. This fact is also used to eradicate ticks. When dry ice is placed in a trap, the carbon dioxide emitted attracts ticks towards it. These traps are placed in areas and residential property prone to tick infestation.
- Bait Boxes
Bait boxes are usually 7-inch boxes that are designed to attract mice. Mice tend to be most ticks’ first host. This is also where ticks pick up the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. These bait boxes are also known as tick control tubes, discussed in detail in the previous section.
- Tick Barrier
Your landscape can help you make your yard undesirable to ticks. Start by mowing your yard and ensuring the grass and shrubs aren’t tall. Do keep the mowing frequent. Additionally, place a comprehensive wood chip or gravel barrier 3 feet wide between wooded areas, lawns, patios, and different types of equipment. This will allow you to reduce tick migration and ultimately tick infestation successfully.
It is extremely important to avoid getting in direct contact with a tick. You can do so by following a few basic guidelines.
- To begin, use DEET, permethrin, or picaridin-based chemical repellents. Wear light-colored clothing when walking through wooded areas. This will help you quickly spot a tick on you.
- Make sure your arms and legs are covered.
- Tuck your pants into your socks if you want to be extra safe. You might also use tape to seal your clothes’ openings. In addition, you should stick to the center of the trail.
- Questing ticks prefer to hide under shrubs, bushes, and thick grass, so you’ll be less likely to come into contact with them this way.
- Check yourself for ticks when you go home, and if feasible, have someone else do it for you.
- Run a fine-tooth comb through your hair to get rid of any ticks possibly present there.
- Take a shower and wash your clothes, both in hot water, to kill any ticks that you missed while inspecting before.