Ticks are in every part of Georgia.
The most common ticks in Georgia are lone star ticks, carriers of uncommon diseases called “ehrlichiosis.”
“The (lone star tick) is the most common tick in Georgia, and it is also the tick that makes us itch the most,” said Nancy Hinkle, a University of Georgia Extension veterinary entomologist.
However, the American dog tick is also present in the state. It is known to carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a flu-like illness that can cause complications for young children and people with suppressed immune systems.
The time to watch for symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever is about a week to two weeks after exposure. If you’ve been exposed to a tick and experience body aches or headaches, a fever, fatigue or have a spotty rash on your hands or feet, visit the doctor and tell them about your tick bite.
The disease can be cured with antibiotics. But if it is left untreated, it can be dangerous, especially for children younger than 5 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The best course of action to prevent the disease is to avoid tick bites altogether. To do that, Hinkle recommends the following:
* Wear long pants tucked into socks or boots when walking or working in heavy brush.
“It does look dorky, but it’s the most effective way to protect you from ticks,” she said. “The ticks have to crawl all the way up your boot and up your pants leg before they get to you, and that’s more of a chance for them to fall off or for you to find them before they attach.”
* Use a repellent containing “DEET.”
Liquid formulations of DEET can be rubbed on the skin and will normally provide protection for several hours. DEET in aerosols can be sprayed on clothing as well as skin for added protection. They are available in many brands and formulations.
Permanone(R), a repellent containing the insecticide permethrin, comes only as an aerosol and is sprayed on clothing only. It is long-lasting and not only repels but kills ticks.
The best combination is to put DEET on skin (as directed on the label) and Permanone(R) on clothing.
* Mow the grass and trim the hedges if you find you’re picking up ticks in a yard.
Keeping things tidy will help knock down tick populations or at least convince them to move.
* Check yourself, pets and children for ticks at least twice a day.
There is evidence the longer an infected tick feeds, the greater the chance it has of transmitting a disease. Early removal is good prevention.
* Remove embedded ticks with forceps, cloth or paper wrapped around the tick as near to the point of attachment as possible.
Use a firm, steady pull. Do not jerk or twist because you may break off the mouthparts and get the site infected. Do not use unprotected fingers. Apply a disinfectant to the site immediately after removal and diligently wash your hands with hot, soapy water.
Tick bites will cause an itchy, sometimes-raised spot to appear after the tick is removed. These can be uncomfortable, Hinkle said, but that’s normal.
“When I get a lone star tick attached to me, I’ll itch for four or five weeks, with a pruritic, indurated lesion (an itchy, hard sore) at the bite site,” she said. “Unfortunately there’s not much we can do about the itch, other than anti-itch creams; it’s our immune system’s way of removing the tick’s salivary secretions over time.”
Taking a few precautions and being aware of the symptoms of tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other, less-common ones should give you good protection against ticks and tick-borne diseases
For more information on Rocky Mountain spotted fever, visit www.cdc.gov/rmsf.
For more information about preventing ticks contact the Hall County Extension Office at 770–535-8293.
Robin Lynn Friedman is the Master Gardener coordinator for the Hall County Extension Office. She can be reached at email@example.com or 770-535-8293.