Mayo Clinic Minute - The ABCs of avoiding ticks
There are ticks in the Carolinas all year, but they really come out when the weather starts to warm in April, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ticks are found across North and South Carolina and they all can transmit disease.
What kinds of ticks are in the Carolinas?
There are five types of ticks found in the Carolinas, and they can all carry disease, according to the CDC. They are the American dog tick, blacklegged tick, brown dog tick, lone star tick and Gulf Coast tick, which are only found in the eastern portions of the Carolinas.
Click here to see the CDC’s tick identification guide.
Where do ticks live?
Ticks live in wooded areas, leaf litter, tall grasses and bushy areas, Wake Count Human Services says.
“Pets that spend time outdoors can also bring them into your home,” according to Wake County.
They are normally found near the ground, the CDC says. “They can’t jump or fly. Instead, they climb tall grasses or shrubs and wait for a potential host to brush against them. When this happens, they climb onto the host and seek a site for attachment,” the CDC says.
How do I avoid tick bites?
There’s a lot of advice about how to avoid tick bites, but most of it boils down to this: Wear protective clothing and insect repellent, and check yourself for ticks when you get back inside.
“The best way to avoid ticks is to use repellents when working around the landscape. Take breaks to check for ticks. Wear bright clothing so it will be easier to spot a crawling tick. Wear long sleeves and pants, have socks pulled over pant legs to limit exposed skin to ticks (this is also a good idea to limit sun exposure),” the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service advises.
South Carolina public health officials say, “Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin. Use products that contain permethrin to treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents or look for clothing pre-treated with permethrin.”
If you get a tick on you, the best thing is to get it off before they bite.
“Check for ticks daily, especially under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and on the hairline and scalp,” the CDC says.
How do I remove a tick?
To properly remove a tick, the Tick-Borne Infection Council of North Carolina says:
- “Do not burn or use any substance on the tick, it may cause the tick to regurgitate infected materials into the wound.
- “Do not use bare fingers or squeeze or twist the body.
- “Grasp tick with pointed tweezers as close to skin as possible and pull straight out with an even pressure.
- “Use alcohol on tweezers and wound.
- “Wash hands thoroughly.
- “You may want to save the tick. Either tape it on a card and or put it in a container of alcohol. Write down the date and place on your body where it was biting.”
I got a tick bite. Will I get sick?
Ok, you covered up and used insect repellent, checked yourself for ticks when you got home and still got a bite. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get sick.
The most common tick-borne illness in the Carolinas is spotted fever, followed by ehrlichiosis and lyme disease, according to the CDC.
“The American dog tick is the primary carrier for (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever) and possibly ehrlichioses,” according to the Extension Service.
The blacklegged tick is the primary Lyme disease carrier, and the lone star tick can transmit ehrlichiosis, the Extension Service says.
“While Lyme disease is the least common in North Carolina it has received much media attention and is very common in the northeastern United States. Ehrlichiosis is the least known but causes a severe illness, but is rarely fatal. RMsf can be fatal and Lyme disease patients can suffer greatly,” according to the Extension Service.
The bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, but “it is important to catch them early,” the Extension Service says.
“Not all ticks carry disease and not all tick bites will make you sick. If you get flu-like symptoms or a rash in the month after a tick bite, see your doctor and let him know you were bitten by a tick,” Wake County Human Services says.
Some tick bites will show with a spotted rash or a rash that looks like a bulls-eye around the site of the bite, Wake County says.