When you type as many columns as I do, you need seasonal topic ideas or ideas that come to you from current situations. One chore I’ve handled at the office since March is to feed, water and collect eggs from the 4-H poultry judging hens.
Well, recently I had just returned from that task and felt something crawling on the back of my neck. What I found was a tick crawling on my neck. Since it was not attached, I easily removed and disposed of the tick. It took me a minute to figure out how I could get a tick on me at work. I realized, I had just fed the hens and the short walk has me go through some fescue grass that was tall and mature. I estimate, I picked up the tick from the grass brushing my pants.
You should note that ticks are one of the most important groups of arthropods in Georgia based on tick ability to transmit diseases. Most people have heard of Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever that can come from tick transmission. There are other diseases, but those can be considered the most common. You can also have issues when an attached tick is removed improperly thus causing the tick mouthpart to be broken off in the skin. This can lead to infection issues for the person. Today, I will be sharing tick protection information from a UGA publication byElmer Gray, UGA Extension entomologist.
For starters, there are three tick species that we can associate with humans in Georgia. They are the Lone Star tick, along with the American dog tick and the black-legged tick. You can pull up images of these ticks online to help you in tick identification. There are many hosts for ticks, ranging from livestock, dogs, deer, birds, rodents and, of course, humans.
I will not go into the life cycle of ticks today, but one important piece of knowledge to keep in mind is that all three of the tick species mentioned have a similar life cycle. This includes blood meal that must take place at each stage of development in order for the tick to develop into an adult for the next tick generation to happen.
Preferred tick habitat should also be considered. This can help in protecting yourself from these potentially disease transmitting arthropods. Ticks will survive best in high grass or bushy areas. These type areas are also popular for many of the potential hosts for ticks. Note that game trail areas that can have a large deer population can also be connected to high tick population. Ticks must have an area with a high level of moisture for survival too. Ticks like bottomland sites that can have high humidity, thick vegetation and a high deer population. On the flipside, hot and dry weather, along with short grass with little mulch, can be deathly to ticks.
COVID-19 and social distancing has found people finding unique or new ways to pass the time. Many are social distancing by hiking or simply getting out in nature. Getting outdoors may at times put yourself in highly tick populated areas so you need to follow protection tips to reduce your chance of tick attachment to your body.
One way to stay in areas where the vegetation is open and below ankle height. If you are in sites with high grass and brush, try to avoid this vegetation from touching your body, especially your legs. It is also advised to wear long pants. It may not be fashionable, but tuck your pant leg into your socks and also tuck your shirt under your belt. These steps of covering your body will make a tick more visible. The tick can travel up towards to your head area so you should be able to see a tick on your clothing. These tips will keep a tick from getting under clothing too.
Try to use a recommended tick repellent. There are products that are labeled for your skin and clothing while others may be labeled only for spraying clothing. Many repellents will contain “DEET.” The DEET products may come in a liquid or an aerosol form. There may also be products that contain the insecticide permethrin. I will add that you must read the label of ANY repellent product purchased for method of application, how it can be used, who it can be used on, etc. The label is designed to give you directions on how to use that product safely.
You need to check yourself for ticks twice a day. There is documentation that says the longer an infected tick feeds on you, the greater the chance of you being transmitted a tick disease. Do not forget how to properly remove an attached tick. You need to remove a tick with either forceps, cloth or paper wrapped around the tick as near the point of attachment as you can. Use a firm and steady pull to remove the tick. Do not jerk or twist the tick while removing. Jerking or twisting can cause the tick mouthpart to break off in the skin and cause infection. Do not use unprotected fingers for tick removal.
You need to apply a disinfectant to the attachment site after removal. You need to wash your hands with hot and soapy water after removal too.