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How to Avoid and Remove Ticks and When to Worry About Lyme Disease

Updated on July 11, 2013
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Mom. Homeschooler. Mystery shopper. Editor. Wife. These are a few words to describe notyouraverageal. Her life is anything but average.

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The Truth About Ticks

Until April of 2013, I had lived in Brandon, a suburb of Tampa, Florida, for 20-something years. There, I didn’t have to worry about bugs too much. Of course, I would get bites from mosquitoes, AKA the state bird of Florida, but otherwise, I was good. We didn’t have several of the bugs I’ve seen up here, including lightning bugs and ticks.

Now, the lightning bugs are okay. They are fun to watch and fun to catch. I don’t even mind if they touch me.

The ticks? Well, they are a different story. So far, in my months of living in the sticks, I have spent more time worrying about ticks than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to worry about, like snakes and bears; however, ticks are at the top of that list.

For those who might not know (the city-folk out there), let me just say that tick bites don’t hurt, exactly. You probably won’t even feel them when they attach to you, which is part of the problem. After a while, they’ll start itching, but they don’t hurt. Luckily, pulling them off doesn’t hurt either. I’m not freaked out because of pain associated with ticks. It’s the chance of disease that bothers me.

Lyme disease is very real, and it’s very scary. It is carried by several types of ticks, and it is the most common tick-borne disease in the northern hemisphere. The good news is that Floridians (like me) are less likely to catch Lyme disease because of the life cycle of the ticks here. The bad news is, it’s still possible. Lyme disease is most common in the New England states and near the Great Lakes area. There is also a small patch of California north of San Francisco that has an issue with Lyme disease. Anywhere else in America, your chances are slim. The bad news is, Lyme disease is just one of many illnesses you can catch from ticks, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.


How to Avoid Ticks

There are several ways you can avoid ticks.

- During warmer months, avoid wooded areas and areas with high grass or lots of leaves. (I guess I won’t be going home until fall.)

- If you go walking through the woods, walk in the center of the trail you are on to avoid rubbing up against trees and limbs.

- Use repellants that contain DEET.

- If you are a serious hiker, you can actually buy clothing that is already treated with Permethrin. You can also buy sprays that contain this chemical to put on your clothing.

- Treat your pets for ticks. The few ticks I have gotten have been because I let my dog sleep in our bed. There are treatments you can buy at the vet’s office or pet store. You can also try natural treatments.


Natural Tick Repellent for Dogs

One natural treatment that I have found that seems to work for fleas and ticks is apple cider vinegar. After you bath your dog, spray him with apple cider vinegar. He will glare at you and hate you, but the fleas and ticks will stay away. You will need to refresh this every few days, because the effects wear off.

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How to Remove Ticks

To help prevent Lyme Disease and other tick-borne infections, you need to know how to properly look for and remove ticks.

When you are in an area that has ticks, you need to perform a tick check at least once a day. If you remove ticks within 24 to 36 hours, your chances of getting Lyme Disease and other illnesses goes way down. Each day, you should check your head, under your arms, around your waist band or bra band, at the tops of your socks and the bottom of your shorts. If you find a tick, don’t panic, but remove it safely as soon as possible.

To remove a tick, don’t use petroleum jelly, nail polish or other substances to try to coax the little blood sucker out. Instead, get some rubbing alcohol and fine-tip tweezers. Use the tweezers to grab the tick as close to the mouth as possible. Quickly, but firmly, pull the tick off the skin. Don’t squeeze or squish the tick, and don’t yank. You may end up leaving the head, which can cause an infection. Wipe the area with rubbing alcohol to clean it. You can also wipe it with witch hazel to reduce the itching you’ll probably feel from the tick.

It’s a great idea to save the ticks you pull off yourself. That way, if you start showing signs of infection, your doctor or the health department can see the tick that caused it.


When to Panic

Don’t panic if there is a tick on you or your child. Ticks are not uncommon, and most people who get them never get sick from them.

It is common for the area that was bitten by a tick to itch for several days after you have removed it. However, if you start to see a rash (not a red dot….a rash), it is best to contact your doctor. This can be a sign of infection.

Other symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache and fatigue. If you start feeling these after a tick bite, consider contacting a doctor.

The good news is that most cases of Lyme disease can easily be treated with antibiotics. Early diagnosis is the key, so do not ignore any symptoms you may have. The longer Lyme disease is allowed to go, the worse the symptoms and recovery.

One little factoid that I learned about ticks is that they are arachnids. In other words, they are blood sucking spiders. So, for those of you with arachnophobia, you can add tickophobia to that list. Good luck avoiding these pesky little vampires!

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