How To Deal With Ticks When You're Outside

tick on leaf

As the summer months seem to be slipping away fast, many Connecticut residents are eager to go out and enjoy the last few weeks of warm temperatures and sunshine before the cold weather sets in. In Connecticut, that often means enjoying nature by hitting up the hiking trails through Sleeping Giant or Devil’s Den. While you may be enjoying the peace and fresh air, there are some pesky and harmful creatures to look out and prepare for - ticks. Ticks are most active during this season, which means they pose a risk for residents, particularly ones who spend time frequently outside. With this information, you can enjoy the last few moments of summer, and your hikes, by protecting yourself, your pets, and your loved ones from ticks.   

What Is A Tick? 

According to the fossil record, ticks have been around for at least 90 million years, and there are over 800 known species of ticks all over the world. But what exactly are ticks? Ticks are actually not insects, but arachnids - they are cousins of the spider, and as such have eight legs. Adult ticks range in size between three to five millimeters - about the size of an apple seed. Ticks are ectoparasites, meaning that they survive by taking blood meals from their hosts. Hosts for ticks include mammals, birds, and humans. Ticks are also known to feed off of reptiles and amphibians, although it is not their preference. 

What Are Ticks Like?

In Connecticut, the most commonly found ticks include the deer tick, the lone star tick, and the wood tick. Whether a larvae, nymph, or adult, all ticks feed off of blood from their hosts by biting them. Female adults are responsible for the most bites, as males will die after mating. Ticks are typically classified as being either hard or soft ticks. All three of the commonly found ticks in Connecticut are hard ticks, meaning that they have a hard plate covering their dorsal side. Hard ticks tend to attach to their host and feed for hours to days, and the host won’t usually feel themselves being bitten. Ticks can go a long time without having a blood meal, however, they need to take in meals in order to progress through their life cycle. Ticks prefer to bite in warm, moist areas and creases in the skin including:

  • Underarms 

  • Groin area 

  • Hair 

  • Neck 

  • Backs of knees 

  • Ears  

Ticks in Connecticut are especially known to transmit Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, so it’s highly recommended that if you, your pet, or someone you know has been bitten by a tick, to bring the tick to a doctor so that it may be tested for carrying diseases. 

How Do I Know If I’ve Been Bitten By A Tick? 

Ticks are small and their bites are painless, so it’s likely that you won’t even know that you have one on you. Besides some mild irritation, symptoms for tick bites don’t appear unless the individual is allergic. If a tick is allowed to feed on their host for an extended period of time, they become engorged with blood. Their bodies will grow in size and may turn a green-blue color. Tick bites only bite one at a time, so there will not be lines or clusters of bites on the skin, but a single bite mark. 

How Do I Prevent Tick Bites? 

So you may decide to go for a walk or hike through the woods. You have a great time until you get home and discover that you have a tick attached to the back of your knee, and now you have to deal with the nuisance and irritation of pulling the tick out. Luckily, there are ways to prevent this from happening again the next time you hit the trails. Some great tips to try are: 

  • Wearing long sleeves, pants, socks, and hats.

  • Using a tick repellent with at least 20% DEET.

  • Spraying your clothing/belongings with permethrin.

  • Walk in the center of trails.

  • Check yourself and others periodically.

  • Take a shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors.

  • Avoid tree litter, shrubs, and other tick-infested areas.

Remember, early removal is essential in preventing tick-borne illnesses, so check thoroughly and frequently! 

What’s The Best Way To Remove Ticks? 

The best way to remove ticks is slowly and very carefully. There are some myths and home remedies like nail polish or cigarette lighters, but these are ineffective and may make it even more challenging for you to get the tick out. The best tool to get rid of ticks is pointy tweezers. No, your eyebrow tweezers will not do: ticks are small, so you need something thin that will get down between the tick and the surface of your skin. Using ordinary tweezers will just tear the tick and make it even harder to remove. Before pulling out the tweezers though, make sure you have cleaned the area around the bite with rubbing alcohol. Now you can get your pointy tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pull up firmly but slowly without jerking or twisting the tick. If the head still remains, don’t worry; it will fall out in a few days and the bite will heal. 

What Do I Do After I’ve Removed The Tick? 

After removing the tick, you have two options: save it or get rid of it. You can save the tick by sealing it in a plastic baggie and bringing it to your doctor so that they may test it for carrying diseases. If you decide to just simply get rid of it, just flush it down the toilet or drown it in rubbing alcohol.    

Ticks are an important concern, but don’t let them stop you from enjoying the last moments of summer! Remembering to wear long clothes, using tick repellent, and checking periodically will all help in preventing ticks from bothering you and your loved ones. If you plan on enjoying the outdoors soon, you can now feel confident in knowing the treatment and prevention methods for ticks. For more information reach out to the professionals at Connecticut Pest Elimination. Enjoy the rest of your summer!