Submitted by Riley Black, RN
Ticks have emerged from their fall and winter hideaways. Ticks begin their activity in the warmer months of April through September and become pests for humans and our pets. It is important to know about these little disease carriers and the ways to protect yourself, your family, and your pets this season.
Ticks are small, hard back insects that survive by drinking the blood of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. They find and target their “hosts” breath, body odors, heat, moisture, and vibrations. Ticks rest and wait on the tips of grasses and shrubs and will attach to an animal or human that comes in contact with them. Ticks however cannot fly or jump on their targets.
Ticks will find safe and warm locations on their hosts and it is important to look in specific places for burrowed ticks. In humans, be sure to check armpits, behind ears, belly buttons, groin, and on top of the head.
Once the tick has found a safe hiding place, it will burrow into the skin of its host and insert a feeding tube into a small blood vessel. Ticks have a natural anesthetic in their saliva so you may not even feel the bite. Feeding can take from 10 minutes to several days. Once full, the tick will release and fall off of the host.
Ticks can transmit diseases from host to host through their saliva. Several different diseases may be transmitted including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Tularemia. These diseases however are not common in Montana but can be found in other locations in the United States like the Upper Midwest, North Eastern and South Eastern United States, and West coast United States.
Signs and symptoms of possible tick borne illness include:
* Fever and chills
* Aches and pains
* Muscle aches
When treated early, diseases from ticks can be cured with antibiotics treatment.
The best course of action is prevention. Great ways to prevent a tick bite includes:
* Avoid wooded and brushy areas
* Walk in the center of trails
* Use repellent with DEET or Permethrin
* Wear protective clothing
* Shower and check yourself as soon as possible after being outdoors
Check pets for ticks
If you do find a burrowed tick on your body you can remove the tick. The best way is to use tweezers and grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth to break off and remain in the skin. Do not wait for the tick to fall off on its own; the priority is to remove it as soon as possible. After removing tick, clean area with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water. Flush ticks down the toilet for disposal.
If you have questions or concerns about ticks and tick borne diseases, call Lincoln County
Public Health at (406) 283-2447 and we can provide answers.