HOW TO DEAL WITH TICKS
- Avoid walking through areas with tall brush grass where ticks might be.
- Monitor pets. Don’t let them run through fields where ticks might be.
- Wear light-colored clothing to make ticks more visible.
- Tuck your pants into socks when hiking.
- Spray clothes with a tick repellent such as permanone.
- As soon as you spot a tick, remove it using a pair of tweezers, firmly and gently grasping it as close to the head as possible. Do not crush the tick. Immediately clean with warm, soapy water.
- If a red rash at the bite site or fever occurs, call a doctor for further treatment.
A day outdoors could leave you with a lot more than a suntan this summer; if you walk near tall grass, you could come home with ticks.
The tick, an arthropod commonly mistaken for a insect, sees its peak activity during the hottest months of the year. Another factor in the increased activity of ticks is the increased population of local wildlife.
“Ticks are often found in the areas where deer are the most — edges of vegetation, edge of a field, edge of a swamp — anywhere where there’s brush, particularly when the brush is waist high,” entomologist Elmer Gray said.
Gray, who works with the Georgia Cooperative Extension service, said ticks are more likely to attach themselves to hairs of an animal, so letting your dog wander into fields will bring ticks into your home. But animals aren’t the only hosts ticks latch onto, he said.
“If you or your kids get out and you’re wandering through the grassy fields, all bets are off.”
Checking for ticks should be done as soon as you get inside. They’re easier to spot if you wear light-colored clothes on your hike, he said.
“Look for that mark that shows up, that speck. Oftentimes we run into seed ticks, the first stage, very small ticks.
The main thing is feeling that sensation that something’s on you. That crawling sensation.”
Once you find you’ve been bitten, there is one main way to avoid being infected by a tick.
“The way you treat them is you’re supposed to take some tweezers and grab them firmly, but not crushing, pull them directly out with gentle firm pressure,” said Dr. Jack Cheng of Northeast Georgia Physicians Group in Chestnut Mountain.
There are other methods, but he doesn’t recommend any of them.
“People do weird things,” he said. “They try to put Vaseline on it and drown it out. They’ll use nail polish. They try to put a match head to the tick, and that’s probably just going to burn your skin and irritate the tick even more.”
The most dangerous part of tick removal is the chance it might get crushed, he said.
“Don’t crush the body because it can introduce the bacteria and the infection that everybody’s worried about: Lyme disease.”
Follow up by keeping the area clean with warm, soapy water. Once you have removed the tick, the chance of getting Lyme disease is low, he said.
“Usually Lyme disease only transmits if the tick has been on the person for over two to three days and has fed on you.”
If you still think you’re infected, Cheng said to look for a red rash around the site where the tick was found.
“The classic rash occurs, you might get a fever, you might get some joint pains, but you usually get the red rash in the area where you were bitten,” he said. It’s easily treatable with antibiotics.”
Avoiding areas of high grass and spraying clothes with a repellent such as permanone will protect against tick bites, but if the ticks are closer to home, pest control can help.
Jason Hulsey, technician at Gainesville’s Empire Pest Control, has seen that precaution, treatment and patience are the best ways to deal with ticks, he said.
“Seems like every year they’re bad around this time and then they die off around September or so.”