In recent years, ticks have become a big nuisance in Vermont. We've put together some facts about these pests to keep you safe while you enjoy the outdoors this summer. We've thrown in some prevention tips and information to help if you find one on yourself or your pets.
What are ticks anyway?
Ticks are parasitic creatures of the arachnid family; they have 4 long legs on either side of their rounded body. Thankfully they cannot jump or fly, but they do crawl onto hosts to feed. Ticks spread Lyme Disease, which can cause serious, long-term issues for the infected person or animal.
Where do ticks live?
Tall grass, shrubs, wooded areas and low brush are havens for ticks. If you're going for a hike, be sure to keep as much skin covered as possible, and stay near the center of the trail to decrease exposure. Hunters should be warned that ticks also live on other animals, such as deer, and will move from the animal to a human if given the opportunity. According to the CDC, it is best to use a bug spray, or combination of lemon and eucalyptus oil to discourage ticks from biting.
How do I avoid getting a tick?
In addition to keeping as much skin covered as possible, you should avoid walking in tall grassy areas as much as possible. Rake and remove loose leaves from your yard, and clear away any tall grass or brush that you can. Placing wood chips or gravel between any shrubbery and your yard will provide a barricade and keep ticks away. Make sure to keep play areas away from shrubs and vegetation.
If you've spent any time hiking, hunting, or in known tick havens, wash your clothes in hot water and shower as soon as possible. The CDC suggests that showering within 2 hours of possible tick exposure reduces your risk of contracting Lyme Disease. Do a thorough tick check while you're at it; they love to hide so be sure to check your hair, ears and in between fingers and toes.
If ticks are of major concern, tick repelling chemicals are available to homeowners. According to the CDC, one application of acaricide during the spring time reduces the tick population by 68-100%. Pest control companies will be able to assess your property and give you a personalized suggestion to best deal with the threat of ticks.
What if I find a tick?
If you discover a tick on yourself or a loved one, take a pair of tweezers or a tick removing tool, and pinch the tick as close to the head as possible. Pull straight back, doing your best to remove the entire pest, and most importantly, the head. If you are unable to do this yourself, go to a doctor's office as soon as possible.
If you've been bitten by a tick, be alert to any rashes, pains or fevers that develop in the subsequent days and weeks. If anything seems unusual, see your doctor immediately. Lyme Disease is an infection with chronic, and potentially debilitating, life long symptoms. It is best to air on the side of caution and have yourself tested for Lyme Disease at the time of exposure.
How do I keep my pets safe?
Unfortunately, pets love to play in areas that are appealing to ticks. Ask your vet about oral and topical medications for dogs and cats that will aid in tick prevention. There are also collars and shampoos available which are effective prevention supplements. It's best to check your pet for ticks daily during the spring and summer to be safe.
We hope these facts and tips are helpful to you!