How ticks work, and how to stop them

March 16, 2017

Lyme disease is one of the fastest growing infectious diseases in the world, and ticks are a big contributor to the spreading of the disease.  So how exactly do ticks...work?  

 

Ticks don't jump, they latch. They put their two front legs in the air which have special sensory structures, sit on the tip of a blade of grass, the tip of a leaf and wait.  With their front legs they are smelling the air for their next host.  Then when you or an animal walk by, they latch on.  

 

 

Once they are on they begin to crawl and find a nice little bare spot of skin to latch into.  Unfortunately for us, their bite can easily go unnoticeable depending on their size and where they bite.  Ticks can range in size anywhere from the size of a poppy seed to a sesame seed, so can very easily go undetected.

 

Some websites will tell you that the tick must be on for 24 hours, but others will tell you that there hasn't been enough research to determine exactly how long it takes to transfer the bacterium that causes Lyme.  Either way, prevention is the key in avoiding ticks all together.  

 

Prevention tips:

  1. Apply insect repellent to your skin and clothing, especially at the openings such as ankle, wrist and neck.  I prefer to avoid DEET and use natural spray.  Be sure to reapply your repellant of choice frequently (every hour or so) if possible.

  2. Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Tuck your pants into your socks to prevent ticks from getting inside your pants. (Not always practical in the heat of the summer, but moving on to the next).

  3. Check your clothes for ticks often. Ticks will climb upwards until they find an area of exposed skin. (Be aware that ticks can be as small as a poppy seed so be thorough).

  4. Wear light coloured clothing to make it easier to spot ticks.

  5. Walk on pathways or trails when possible staying in the middle. Avoid low-lying brush or long grass.

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