Ticks and Lyme Disease Know How to Keep Yourself Safe!

Tick.jpg (7948 bytes)What is a tick?  A tick is not an insect.  It is related to the spider.  The whole spider family is called arachnids (a-rak-nids).  All arachnids have eight legs (insects only have six).  Like spiders, ticks cannot fly.  Some ticks are soft and squishy, like a dog tick.  Others, like deer ticks, have a very hard shell.  Ticks feed on the blood of animals, including humans.  You may not even know that you have been bitten because you can barely feel a tick bite.  Ticks are very small, about the size of a sesame seed.  Young ticks can be even smaller!  Once a tick has bitten you it can stay attached to your skin for several weeks if you don’t remove it



What is Lyme Disease?  Some ticks carry a sickness called Lyme disease.  Not all ticks carry the disease.  So if you get bitten, don’t worry! Just watch the skin around your tick bite.  If the bite looks red right after you remove the tick, that just means your skin didn’t like the tick’s saliva (spit!)  Some people are allergic to tick spit.  If you get a rash in the shape of a circle around the bite, that could be Lyme disease.  The rash usually shows up one to two weeks after you are bitten.   Lyme disease can be cured if a doctor treats you with antibiotics right away.  Some other signs of Lyme disease are tiredness, fever, headache, and upset stomach.

What if a tick bites me?  If a tick bites you, tell an adult immediately!  The adult should remove the tick with a pair of tweezers.   Do NOT use your fingernails.  Use the tweezers to grab the tick close to your skin and gently pull straight out.  Another safe way to remove the tick is to gently grab the tick close to your skin with the tweezers and roll the tweezers in one direction.  Do NOT grab the tick by the body and Do NOT twist the tick out.  If you do this, part of the tick’s head could be left inside your body and get infected!  Save the tick and place it in a jar of alcohol to kill it.   Clean the bite with alcohol.  Watch the bite for the next few weeks to see if you get a circular rash.  If you see a rash or feel sick, your parents should take you to the doctor.  Don’t forget to show the tick to your doctor.  He can tell you if it’s the kind of tick that can carry Lyme disease (like a deer tick).

Where do I look for ticks on me?  Ticks like warm, dark places.  Good places to look for them are the back of the knee, thighs, belly button, armpit, ears, hair, or the back of your neck.  If you have been outside playing, your parents should help you check these places for ticks.

What about ticks on my pets?  Ticks will drink blood from animals, too.  Your parents can use tweezers (or special tick removing tools from a pet store) to remove ticks.  Some special collars and powders protect your pet from ticks.  A good bath is great for your pet, too!

What can I do to stay away from ticks?  Ticks like to live in shady, wooded areas.  They can be found in tall grass, Spanish moss, bushes, low tree branches, and sometimes even lawns and gardens.  They especially like warm weather, so you should be extra careful during summer.   Ticks are usually found from April through September, but they can be around whenever it is warm outside.  Try not to play in the woods.  If you have to be in the woods, be sure to: 

               Wear light colored clothes (it’s easier to see ticks since they are dark)
         Always wear closed shoes (like sneakers and boots, not sandals)
         Tuck your pants into your socks so that ticks can’t get inside your clothes
         Spray clothes with bug spray
         Check yourself often for ticks on your skin or clothes
         If you’re hiking, stay on clear trails (don’t go into heavily wooded areas)

When you go inside make sure you: 

               Wash your clothes to kill any ticks
         Take a shower
         Have one of your parents help you check yourself for ticks

What can my parents do to keep ticks out of our yard?  You can’t get rid of ticks completely, but there are things your parents can do to keep the number of ticks low.  Ask your parents to: 

               Keep the grass mowed.
         Avoid putting plants in the yard that attract deer and other animals (ticks live on animals.)
         Clear brush, leaf litter and tall grass from around the house.
         Keep the ground under bird feeders clean so you do not attract small animals (like squirrels.)
         Have a professional spray the house and yard with an insecticide in late May (to kill young ticks) and in September (to kill adult ticks.)

Deer Tick You can pull a tickstraight up, or     You can roll the tick out, but do not twist!
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Provided by the Pelotes Island Nature Preserve

To learn more about Ticks, click here.