As a homeowner, the last thing you want to stumble across on your property is a tick. The environment of Ohio is, unfortunately, designed to create humble homes for these pesky pests. Ticks thrive in tall grasses, wooded areas, and underneath piles of chopped wood and leaves. The biggest problem with ticks isn’t that they’re creepy crawlers, it’s that they carry disease that can be transmitted to human hosts. And with cases of disease from ticks almost doubling in the U.S. over recent years, tick prevention and treatment is becoming more important than ever before. Here’s what you need to know about tick identification and tick prevention so you and your family can stay safe this summer.
Not many people realize just how many species of ticks there are in America. Here in Ohio, the ones you’ll most likely come across are the LoneStar Tick and the Blacklegged Tick (more commonly known as the Deer Tick). Deer ticks are found across all parts of the US whereas the LoneStar Tick is typically distributed only in Eastern and Southeastern states. You’re likely to come across the common Deer Tick out in the wooded parts of Ohio, at various times of the year. Many people are surprised that ticks aren’t just a pest that should be inspected for in the spring and summer. Adults of this particular species will come out and search for hosts even in the middle of winter, as long as temperatures are above freezing!
In order to identify ticks, it’s important to understand how they act. Ticks usually become active when temperatures reach 45 degrees Fahrenheit. In the wild, they either live in the nests of their hosts or they cling to vegetation and wait for passing animals to wander by to jump onto. For food, ticks rely on the blood of their hosts. Some ticks excrete a white, latex-like substance that helps them adhere to the body of their hosts. Because ticks have a long feeding time, this increases the likelihood that they can transmit disease to their hosts.
Diseases from ticks
Part of the reason why tick prevention is so important is because of all the gnarly diseases ticks can transmit to humans. The types of diseases from ticks that humans are able to contract include the following:
Diseases from Deer Ticks
- Lyme Disease: transmitted by the Deer Tick
The most common vector-borne disease in the US. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, this disease can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
- Anaplasmosis: transmitted by the Deer Tick
Early symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. If left untreated, this disease can result in respiratory failure, internal bleeding, and organ failure.
- Babesiosis: transmitted by the Deer Tick
This disease is a life-threatening infection of the red blood cells.
- Borrelia Mayonii: transmitted by the Deer Tick
A recently discovered species of lyme disease-causing bacteria. Symptoms are similar to that of lyme disease but also include nausea, vomiting, neurological disruption, and a variety of rash types.
- Powassan Disease: transmitted by the Deer Tick
A rare but often severe disease that can cause infection of the brain (encephalitis) or affect the membranes around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)
Diseases from the Lone Star Tick
Causes flu-like symptoms, ranging from mild body aches to sever fever. If left untreated, can cause kidney failure, respiratory failure, heart failure, seizures, and coma.
- Heartland virus: transmitted by Lone Star Tick
Symptoms include decreased appetite, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and muscle/joint pain. Causes low white blood cell count and easy bruising due to low platelet count.
- STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness): transmitted by the Lone Star Tick
Symptoms may be similar to that of lyme disease but the rash caused by STARI is a red, expanding “bullseye” lesion that usually develops around the tick bite.
- Tularemia: transmitted by the Lone Star Tick
A rare infectious disease that attacks your skin, lungs, eyes, and lymph nodes. Symptoms include an ulcer near the site of the bite, painful and swollen lymph glands, fever, chill, headache, fatigue, ulcer in the eyelid, light sensitivity, and tender lymph glands around the ear, neck, and jaw. Additional symptoms include pain, swelling, redness or discharge in the eye.
For information about signs and symptoms of diseases from ticks, please visit The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
The first step in tick prevention is to learn where they reside. Know where to expect ticks.
- The border area of lawns
- Wooded areas
- Tall brush/grass
- Under leaves or ground cover (plants) in yards and in leaf litter (another reason to do your outdoor chores!)
- Around stone walls and wood piles, where mice and other small mammals may live
- Around bodies of water, where wildlife typically gather to drink
Protect Yourself & Your Family From Ticks
Treat your clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat shoes, boots, clothing, and camping gear and even remains protective through several washings! Nowadays you can even invest in permethrin-treated clothing and outdoors gear. On yourself, you’ll want EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Check out the EPA’s handy guide to finding the right repellent for you and your family.
How to inspect yourself & your family for ticks
- Check your clothing
- Ticks sometimes don’t grab a hold of you immediately and may try to sneak their way in by hitching a ride on your clothing. Make sure to inspect your clothing. If you find a tick, be sure to remove it. To kill the tick(s), carefully transfer the clothing into your dryer. Run on high heat for 10 minutes. If you’d prefer to wash the clothing first, be sure to wash in hot water. Cold and medium temp water won’t be enough to kill the ticks.
- Check your gear & fuzzy friends
- Ticks are also likely to attach themselves to your gear and your pets. Be sure to carefully inspect your pets and check coats, daypacks, and outdoor gear.
- Shower ASAP
- Showering within 2 hours of coming indoors from being outside has been shown to significantly reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and can be effective at reducing other diseases. You’ll be able to wash off unattached ticks and it provides an opportunity to do a full body tick check.
- Speaking of fully body tick checks, here’s where you should inspect. Be sure to check yourself and other members of your family.
Tick Inspection of property
Curious if you have ticks around your property? Try using the monitoring method known as “tick dragging”. To make a drag cloth, simply attach a wooden pole across the end of a white sheet. Attach a cord to both ends of the stick to pull the cloth through vegetation. After every 30-60 seconds of dragging, check the top and bottom of the sheet to see if any ticks have attached themselves.
Here’s a basic representation of what the dragging tool should look like
A scary fact is that 82% of ticks are located within 3 yards of the law perimeter of homes, including along woods, stonewalls, or shrubs. Homeowners should be knowledgeable of how landscape modifications can decrease (or increase) the number of ticks that may be present in parts of yards. Here are some simple landscaping techniques you can do yourself to reduce the tick population around your home:
- Pick up and remove leaf litter
- Cut down tall grass and brush around your home and the edge of your lawn
- Place a 3-foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to help restrict tick migration into your yard
- Mow your lawn frequently
- Keep playground equipment and outdoor furniture away from yard edges and wooded areas. Avoid putting your patio and deck directly under trees, where ticks can drop from above.
Worried about ticks around your home?
Luckily in this day and age, there are products available to combat and prevent ticks around your home. Get prepared for tick season with help from A-Abel and our wide range of Zoecon Professional Grade Products. Contact us to learn more about how we can help keep your family safe from ticks this summer!