Tiny, Tenacious, Terrible Ticks

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Published on: May. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

tweezers or blunt forceps to remove the tick. Pinch the tick lightly as close to your skin as possible and remove the tick with a steady lifting motion—no twisting. Be careful not to squeeze, crush or puncture the tick's body. It's a good idea to save the tick in case you do come down with something. Put it in a sealed plastic bag marked with the date and keep it in the refrigerator.

After removing the tick, bathe the bite area (maybe even scrub it with cotton swab dipped in hydrogen peroxide), apply antibiotic ointment and cover it with a bandage.

Beware of some often-cited tick removal methods. Some people, for example, recommend touching the tick with a hot match. This might cause the tick to rupture, increasing the chances of disease transmission. Coating the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly might cause the tick to regurgitate into your flesh.

Ticks and Dogs

In 2003, an animal medical center in Wentzville confirmed 100 active cases of tick-borne diseases among client dogs. Of those, 80 dogs tested positive for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, 19 were positive for ehrlichiosis, and one dog had Lyme disease. Two of the dogs with ehrlichiosis died.

Rural clients usually know about ticks and the diseases they carry. However, pet owners moving from urban areas to the country may not be as aware as they should be. Dog owners should have their pets tested using what's called a titer test, and take action to protect their pets from ticks.

Prevention and Control

If you walk through uncut fields, brush or other likely tick habitat, check your clothes and skin frequently for the tiny, crawling critters. Wear light-colored clothing to allow you to more easily see ticks. Treat clothing with a permethrin insecticide (dry before wearing) and protect exposed skin with a tick repellent. At the end of the day, perform a full-body inspection using a mirror.

Your veterinarian can recommend preventative measures to protect your pets.

You can reduce the number of ticks in your yard by keeping your lawn cut short and edges trimmed. Remove brush and leaf litter to allow sunlight to reach the ground. Woodpiles are prime locations for ticks. To prevent infestation, wood should be neatly stacked off the ground in a dry location. If chemical control becomes necessary, use appropriate products according to label directions.

If personal and home security precautions are followed, you can protect your family, your pets and yourself against tick attack. Recognizing ticks and applying proper first aid if bitten will lessen the chance of contracting tick-borne disease. Knowing the early symptoms of disease and seeking appropriate medical assistance reduces the potential for debilitating complications. All of us should take tick bites seriously, but we should not let the presence of ticks and their diseases in our environment prevent us from enjoying Missouri's great outdoors.

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