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Tick Aware

Ticks are a fact of camping and ticks can be a hazard, but following a few simple guidelines are all that’s needed.  All campers should wear a good quality insect repellant when they are in the woods. The most effective repellant to combat ticks is one that contains 30% Deet (or permethrin).

Leaders may wish to bring spray type insect repellant so that it can be sprayed on clothes. It is not recommended to let Scouts use aerosol sprays unsupervised because of potential dangers from misuse including damage to eyes and the flammability of the product.

Before camping, hiking, or any other outdoor adventure with your Scouts, make sure you take the proper precautions against ticks, which can transmit Lyme disease. Here are some tips to help understand ticks and what to do if a tick bites you.

The Lyme Disease Network, is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the education of the public about the prevention and treatment of Lyme Disease.The have a pictures section that details the differences between the common American Dog Tick and the Deer Tick which can carry Lyme Disease.

The Lyme Disease Network, is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the education of the public about the prevention and treatment of Lyme Disease.  The site has a pictures section that details the differences between the common American Dog Tick and the Deer Tick which can carry Lyme Disease.

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
The largest specimen in the top-center is a male American dog tick, Dermacentor variablis. To the right are three stages of Ixodes scapularis, the female (largest), male (intermediate size) and nymph (smallest). To the left of the dog tick are three stages of the lone-star tick, Amblyomma amercianum. The female is the largest one (with the white dot), the intermediate sized lone-star is the male and the smallest is the nymph. The ruler is in 16ths of an inch.

The largest specimen in the top-center is a male American dog tick, Dermacentor variablis. To the right are three stages of Ixodes scapularis, the female (largest), male (intermediate size) and nymph (smallest). To the left of the dog tick are three stages of the lone-star tick, Amblyomma amercianum. The female is the largest one (with the white dot), the intermediate sized lone-star is the male and the smallest is the nymph. The ruler is in 16ths of an inch.

What do ticks look like?  Ticks are usually round or tear-shaped.  Some ticks are so small that they are hard to see.  Others, when filled with a blood meal, are as big as a pencil eraser.  They can be gray, brown, black, or even reddish.  Ticks have eight legs, which makes them a type of arachnid, but they are not actually spiders.  Click the image to your right for a larger image on LymeNet.org or to just see a larger image click here.

What do ticks eat?  Males and female ticks suck blood from mammals (including people), as well as from birds, reptiles, and amphibians.  Like redbugs, they wait on small bushes, moss, and sticks for an animal to walk by.  They jump onto you and crawl around until they find a spot where they feel safe enough to bite you.  (This will often be on the scalp (head), back of the neck, waist, or ankles.)  Ticks have sharp mouthparts which they bury in your skin.  Their mouthparts hang on really tight and make it difficult to remove ticks from your skin.  While attached, they drink blood to use as food.  After they are full, they drop off into the plants on the ground.  Female ticks lay eggs in the moss and shrubs.

How do you avoid getting bitten by ticks?  Stay away from piles of sticks and moss where baby ticks might be hatching.  Instead, walk on grass or paths.  Wear light-colored pants and a long-sleeved shirt.  Tuck your pants into your socks.  Use a tick repellent (like sulfur powder), and check yourself for ticks every 3 – 4 hours.  (Be sure to check in your hair and anyplace that bends or has tight elastic.)

How do you get a tick off once it has bitten in?  Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible, but don’t squash him.  Do not twist or jerk the tweezers and do not crush the tick’s body if possible. This could release bacteria into your body. .  Instead, pull the tweezers up with even pressure.  To kill the tick, drop it in alcohol.  Afterwards, be sure to clean the tick bite very well.  If the mouthparts stayed in your skin, it may make a sore.  Try not to scratch it.  Save the tick in a jar of alcohol or tape it to a piece of cardboard so it can be identified by your local health department.

Contact your medical health professional for advisement. Be especially alert for the following symptoms, which may be early signals of Lyme disease:

  • Fever and chills
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Headache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Skin rash, which may have a bull’s-eye appearance

The following signals may appear weeks, months, or years after a tick bite:

  • Arthritis
  • Numbness
  • Paralysis of the facial muscles, usually on one side
  • Memory loss
  • Problems with hearing or vision
  • Severe headache
  • High fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat

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 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, muscle aches and upset stomach.

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and LymeNet.org web sites for more information.

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