They have eight little legs, are found throughout the world, and love to drink blood. If you have ever been hiking or camping, you know all about this small arachnid. If your home borders a section of the wilderness, you will know this tiny ectoparasite.
Ticks are dependent on blood. They need you, deer, or another animal including your pets to complete their life cycle. If they cannot find a host, ticks die. As satisfying as that sounds, ticks are skilled at finding their food. They are tricky. Ticks can hunt by smell. No matter how much deodorant you apply, they can smell your body odor. Ticks can detect body heat, carbon dioxide, and the vibrations caused by movement. They know to wait on the edges of hiking trails and game trails. Ticks will climb up grasses and hold their first pair of legs extended. In this “questing” stance, they are ready to grab on to you or your dog, as you walk past.
Once they are upon you they may go unnoticed. Some species of ticks are small enough that you might mistake them for a freckle. They will find a nice area on your body, cut through your skin and begin to gorge upon your blood. They use an anticoagulant to keep the juices flowing.
Urban legends of removal
If you come home sporting an eight-legged freckle, do not grab the peanut butter. People might tell you to coat them in petroleum jelly, nail polish or a burning match head. Ignore them. Any remedy involving “painting” or “burning” is folklore. Instead, go to your bathroom and grab a pair of fine tipped tweezers. Yep, that is your removal tool of choice… tweezers. Grab the tick as close to your skin as possible and pull outward with steady, even pressure. Avoid the impulse of rapid jerking or twisting, their little head could break off and become imbedded in your skin.
Once the tick has been removed, dispose of the arachnid down your toilet. If you are feeling vindictive, you can let the foul fiend die by submerging it in rubbing alcohol. If some of the mouth parts broke off in your skin, use your tweezers and remove them. After you eradicate the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol, iodine, or soap and water.
Avoid bites, they transmit disease
Lyme’s Disease and Anaplasmosis are only two of the many nasty diseases carried by ticks. Whenever you are camping, hiking or walking in wooded areas, use bug repellent. Make certain the brand has at least 20 to 30% DEET. If you are walking on trails, stay in the middle and avoid tall grasses, leaf litter and shrubs. After hiking, check for ticks. They can hide in your hair, behind your ears, armpits, anywhere.
Perform a full body check. The same goes for Fido. Check your pets as well. Remember, some tick species can be as small as a freckle.