Tick advice you need to know heading into the summer
Ready or not here they come. The warmer weather is here and so are the ticks.
As we officially transition into summer, there are things you need to do to avoid getting a sickly bite.
If you do get bit this summer, how do you know how if it's a tick or something else?
Jen Crawford, a Supervising Field Representative with the Disease Control and Communicable Disease Unit at the Ocean County Health Department, says check to see where on your skin your freckles and moles are.
If you spot something new, brush it away.
"If you're looking down at your arm and there's something that looks like a new spot, brush it aside and see if it moves," Crawford said.
Ticks are in the nymph stage right now and they hang around with their eight-legs into the fall when they become adults, according to the CDC.
It's at this time Crawford says ticks can be very hard to spot.
"They are extremely small, probably about the size of a poppy seed," Crawford said.
More than 70 percent of Lyme disease cases occur from the bite of ticks in the nymph stage according to the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service of Ocean County who says that about 20 to 45 percent of blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) in New Jersey (depending on the life stage and where they are found) are infected with and are able to transmit Lyme disease.
Why do ticks bite you? The CDC says it's because ticks need blood at every stage of their life in order to survive.
If you get bit, what are some of the effects you'll start to feel?
"Depending on the life stage of the tick, you may not feel a bite at all especially the nymph's because they are so tiny and when they bite you it's likely that most people aren't going to feel that," Crawford said.
She says when ticks become adults, which is usually by the fall, you may feel a little pinch.
If you start getting a rash there and feel run down, have a fever or any muscle aches, between three and thirty days after a bite, it may be time to see a doctor.
The CDC reports that between 2004 and 2016, New Jersey was in the top 20 percent of states with more than 12,856 reported disease cases from ticks.
Lyme disease is spread by the blacklegged tick which can be found on the shrubby understory of the forest, in high grassy areas and in open fields.
Ticks tend to favor the thick undergrowth of shrubs and small trees because they prefer cool, moist woodlands.
Depending on what stage of life they're in, ticks could be difficult to spot on your skin.
So if you've been bitten, remove the tick carefully with tweezers and then place it in a sealed container with a slightly damp (with water, not alcohol) piece of paper towel Ocean County Health Officials said, and then get the bite checked out.
"Have it identified and know what kind of tick bit you because different ticks carry different kinds of diseases," Crawford said.
She says you should also mark down what day it happened because it may take between three days and a month until you start feeling any symptoms.
The CDC says the blacklegged ticks can transmit anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Lyme disease following a bite.
Lyme disease is a concern for our area and at this time of the year but it's something that is preventable.
"The ticks that are most likely to bite you are the nymphs," Crawford said. "It's important upon coming in from outdoor activities to give yourself a good look-over."
It's important to spray yourself with an EPA registered repellent before going outside and she says if you're enjoying the weather with your pets, make sure they're on a flee and tick preventative as well.
Crawford also suggests that when you come inside, change your clothes and even take a shower to make sure you brushed away any ticks especially from hard to see areas like the groin or the scalp.
How are the ways ticks can spread disease, according to the CDC:
- Depending on the tick species and its stage of life, preparing to feed can take from 10 minutes to 2 hours. When the tick finds a feeding spot, it grasps the skin and cuts into the surface.
- The tick then inserts its feeding tube. Many species also secrete a cement-like substance that keeps them firmly attached during the meal. The feeding tube can have barbs which help keep the tick in place.
- Ticks also can secrete small amounts of saliva with anesthetic properties so that the animal or person can't feel that the tick has attached itself. If the tick is in a sheltered spot, it can go unnoticed.
- A tick will suck the blood slowly for several days. If the host animal has a blood-borne infection, the tick will ingest the pathogens with the blood.
- Small amounts of saliva from the tick may also enter the skin of the host animal during the feeding process. If the tick contains a pathogen, the organism may be transmitted to the host animal in this way.
- After feeding, most ticks will drop off and prepare for the next life stage. At its next feeding, it can then transmit an acquired disease to the new host.
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