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How to Avoid Ticks

Tick Video| How To Avoid Ticks | Tick Removal
| Lyme Disease| Symptoms of Lyme Disease | Tick-Related Diseases

What Is a Tick? | Common Types of Ticks|

Tips for Avoiding Ticks in the Field

If you explore the Southwest’s desert basins, waterways, canyons and forested mountain slopes – all places where ticks may occur – you should consider taking several precautions. 

  • Avoid low brushy areas, burrows, nests, abandoned structures and caves—all areas favored by ticks. 
     
  • Inspect your body and clothes a couple of times a day to make certain that a tick hasn't targeted you as a host.  If you can catch a tick before or soon after it has latched onto your skin, you can probably avoid contracting diseases it may carry.  You have to look closely because a tick in the larval or nymphal stage may be very small.

  • Inspect your pet, especially its head and ears, a couple of times a day. Dogs are 50 to 100 times more likely than humans to come in contact with disease-carrying ticks. Check your dog for ticks every day, especially during tick season: spring, summer and fall. Use tick medications to prevent ticks on your dog.

  • Wear long, light-colored pants (possibly taped at the ankles) and long-sleeved light-colored shirts, making the tick’s dark presence on your clothes more obvious and its access to your body more difficult. 

  • Apply an insect repellent with DEET – an oily, colorless insect repellent – to your skin, and apply a permethrin formulation – a topical insecticide – to at least your shoes, socks and pants.

Tick Removal

Should you discover that, in spite of all precautions, a tick has still managed to bite you, attaching itself to your skin by the barbs of its feeding tube and the glue from its salivary glands, you should remove it promptly, but very carefully. 

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.

  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

  • Avoid folklore remedies such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible--not waiting for it to detach.

  • Follow-up: If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.

 

Tick-borne diseases

  • -Anaplasmosis
  • -Babesiosis
  • -Ehrlichiosis


Lyme Disease
the most common tick-borne infectious disease in the United States – occurs infrequently in the desert Southwest.  Especially severe, it produces the well-known rash that encircles the site of the bite. 

Caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burgdorferi). Certain ticks carry these bacteria. The ticks pick up the bacteria when they bite mice or deer that are infected with Lyme disease. You can get the disease if you are bitten by an infected tick.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Not everyone infected with these bacteria gets ill. If a person does become ill, the first symptoms resemble the flu and include:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle pain

There may be a "bulls-eye" rash, a flat or slightly raised red spot at the site of the tick bite. Often there is a clear area in the center. It can be larger than 1 - 3 inches wide.

A blood test can be done to check for antibodies to the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.

  • -Rickettsia parkeri Rickettsiosis
  • -Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)
  • -STARI (Southern tick-Associated Rash Illness)

 

Tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF), a fairly unusual disease in the Southwest although a significant outbreak has occurred in the past on the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  According to an article “The Epidemiology of Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever in the United States,” American Journal of Tropical Medicine, it can cause symptoms such as a rash, a high fever, drenching sweats, accelerated heart beat, headaches, low back pain, and occasional nausea and vomiting.  Reported in time, it usually responds to treatment with antibiotics, although it may recur.

  • -Tularemia
  • -364D Rickettsiosis

   

See The Center for Disease Control's page for more information.

Medical Disclaimer

A Question of Common Sense

While you should be aware of the risk of ticks and disease in the Southwest, you need not be overly concerned.  Of all the people who explore the wilderness areas, relatively few experience tick bites and fewer still suffer tick-borne diseases.  You can minimize the risk by taking some common-sense precautions and care to protect your family, your pets and yourself.

Written by Jay Sharp

About Ticks ...

What is a Tick?
Description of a Tick
Common Ticks

 

Health and Medical Disclaimer

The information provided on this web site and by this web site through content provided by Authors or third party providers, and in other sources to which it refers, is PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY and should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease.

Information provided at and by DesertUSA is NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL CARE. If you have a medical concern, or suspect you have a health problem you should consult your primary doctor or specialist.

If you cannot agree to this Health and Medical Disclaimer, you are not permitted to use this web site and should exit immediately.

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DesertUSA Video Productions

The Black Widow Spider Video
The female black widow spider is the most venomous spider in North America, but it seldom causes death to humans, because it only injects a very small amount of poison when it bites. Black Widows spin webs that lack shape and form. Their silk is stronger than most other spiders.

The Tick Video
A tick will sneak up on you or your dog, take up residence on your body, administer a painless bite into the skin, and engorge itself with blood. A small fraction of an inch in length, a typical tick has a roughly teardrop-shaped, two-part body encased in a leathery, accordion-like, dark brown external skeleton.

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Lyme disease
Caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burgdorferi). Certain ticks carry these bacteria. The ticks pick up the bacteria when they bite mice or deer that are infected with Lyme disease. You can get the disease if you are bitten by an infected tick.

Symptoms
Not everyone infected with these bacteria gets ill. If a person does become ill, the first symptoms resemble the flu and include:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle pain

There may be a "bulls eye" rash, a flat or slightly raised red spot at the site of the tick bite. Often there is a clear area in the center. It can be larger than 1 - 3 inches wide.

A blood test can be done to check for antibodies to the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.