I’d Like to Check You for Ticks

Ah, summer in the Ozarks! The beauty of the hills, the pleasure of the trails, the birdsong and burble of the creeks! And of course the ticks.

Ticks are arachnids, like spiders, and they live on the blood of mammals. They manage this by biting people and other creatures and sucking their blood. Toward the end of a meal, ticks share some pathogens, nasty stuff that causes pain, itching, and sometimes very serious diseases. While some people are allergic to tick saliva, tick venom isn’t the big issue. The problem with ticks is that they are vectors for diseases. Basically, a tick which has bitten some creature with a disease can pass it on to the next creature it bites — and that could be you.

This doesn’t mean that we have to freak out whenever we see a tick. If you experience nausea, fever, vomiting, or confusion after being bitten by a tick, get to the emergency room. Otherwise, keep calm and accept ticks as part of the great outdoors. With a little forethought and care, you can coexist with ticks.

The first step is to avoid being bitten by ticks. Staying in town may be the only really certain way, but long pants tucked into socks can help a lot. At Uncle Sam’s, we have a selection of insect repellents that can help make you less attractive to the critters.

Even if they get onto you, though, you can often remove them before they bite. They don’t pounce on you with open jaws; they usually catch a ride and mosey around a little before sinking their mouthparts in. If you feel a tick crawling on you, grab it and get rid of it before it bites you. If you’ve walked through long grass or brushed up against trees, have a look. Check your hiking partner for ticks.

Once they’ve bitten, you can grasp them gently and pull them off. Don’t twist them, since that can cause the head to break off and stay in your skin. Don’t squeeze them, since that can push pathogens into your body. Just pull them off. If you’re in an area with a high level of Lyme disease, or if you are too grossed out by ticks to touch them, put on gloves first and use our Tick Pliers to remove the tick.

You might have heard that you should save the tick to show to your doctor. If getting a tick bite is a rare event for you, you might want to do this in case you end up having a bad reaction. Knowing the kind of tick that bit you can help medical professionals determine more quickly what kind of disease you might be facing.

If you get bitten by ticks as often as we do, you will soon get tired of carrying that tick collection around. The medical professionals we asked had no interest in looking at ticks. Mostly, they know the kinds of ticks you’re likely to meet in the area where they practice.

Some other things you shouldn’t do with ticks include dousing them with gasoline or kerosene, covering them up with petroleum jelly so they’ll back out of your skin, and leaving them along until they drop off by themselves. While these tricks, along with shrieking and jumping around, can be entertaining for your friends, they don’t do anything to keep you from getting tick-borne diseases. Sometimes they can make things worse, as the noxious substances you put on them can make them vomit into your blood — a seriously nasty thought, and something that can push any pathogens further into your bloodstream.

Best plan is to be vigilant. Check yourself and your companions for ticks regularly when you’re outside in grasslands or woods, remove them quickly, and get on with your life.

 

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