Ticks are small arachnids that can carry and transmit diseases to both humans and animals. The most infamous of these illnesses is Lyme Disease. Identifying ticks in your home is important in order to protect yourself and your family from the potential dangers they pose. Let’s look at the different types of ticks, why they are dangerous, what to do if you find them in your home, how to remove ticks from your body, and finally, how to prevent ticks from entering your home in the first place.
Types of Ticks You Can Find in Your Home
There are several species of ticks, but the most common types found in homes are the black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick), the dog tick, and the brown dog tick. Each species has unique physical characteristics, but they all share the ability to latch onto hosts and feed on blood.
- Black-legged Ticks: Also known as deer ticks, these ticks are typically brown or black in color and have a flattened, oval-shaped body. They are commonly found in wooded areas and can transmit Lyme disease.
- Dog Ticks: Dog ticks are larger and can range in color from brown to reddish-brown. They have a tough, shield-shaped body. Dog ticks can transmit diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
- Brown Dog Ticks: As the name suggests, brown dog ticks are brown in color and have a slender body. They are commonly found in homes and can transmit diseases such as ehrlichiosis and babesiosis.
Why Ticks are Dangerous
Ticks are dangerous because they can transmit diseases to humans and pets through bites. Some of the most common diseases transmitted by ticks include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis. These diseases can cause a wide range of symptoms, including fever, joint pain, headaches, and fatigue, and in severe cases, they can lead to long-term health complications. Therefore, it is crucial to identify and remove ticks from your home to minimize the risk of infection.
Identifying Ticks in Your Home
Detecting ticks in your home can be challenging, as they are small and can easily hide in crevices and corners. However, some signs can indicate their presence. Look out for:
- Blood spots or stains: Ticks feed on blood, so it’s not unusual to find blood stains on bedding, clothing, or furniture if ticks are present.
- Unexplained bites: If you or your family members experience unexplained bites, especially in areas such as the groin, armpits, or scalp, ticks could be the culprit. Sometimes a tick bite will have a characteristic bullseye look to it. This isn’t always the case, though, so even if no bullseye is present you should still get an unknown bite checked out.
- Pet behavior: If your pet seems restless, excessively scratching or grooming a specific area, it’s worth checking for ticks, as pets can bring them into the home.
What to Do if You Find Ticks in Your Home
Even the most prudent of tick checkers can end up with ticks in their home. They can come in off of clothes, your pet’s fur, or even through cracks and holes on their own accord. If you find ticks in your home, it is important to take immediate action to remove them and prevent further infestation. Here are the steps to follow (3):
- Isolate the area: Once you have identified the presence of ticks in a specific area, keep pets and children away from that space to minimize the risk of tick bites.
- Wear protective gear: Put on gloves and a long-sleeved shirt to protect yourself from potential tick bites.
- Use tweezers: Grasp the tick using a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, particularly if you are removing them from skin.
- Pull gently: Slowly and steadily pull the tick upward, using even pressure. Avoid twisting or jerking the tick, as this can cause the mouthparts to break off and remain embedded in the skin. If you crush the tick, it can release whatever diseases it is carrying, so it is important to not crush it.
- Clean the area: Clean the area where you found the tick. If it is in bedding, wash the sheets. Inspect the area to ensure there are no more ticks that are present. Dispose of the tick by either flushing it down the toilet or sealing it in a container or ziplock bag before placing it in the trash.
Removing a Tick from Your Body
Removing a tick from your body (or your children or pets) can be a precarious event. If you find a tick attached to your body, it is crucial to remove it properly to reduce the risk of disease transmission. Follow these steps:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers: Similar to removing ticks in your home, use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull gently: Apply steady upward pressure, being careful not to squeeze or crush the tick. Aim to remove the tick in one smooth motion without twisting or jerking. Twisting or jerking can cause the tick’s head to break off and stay inside the skin, where it can still transmit disease.
- Clean the area: After removing the tick, clean the affected area with soap and water or an antiseptic solution. Monitor the site of the bite for any signs of infection or a rash, and consult a healthcare professional if necessary.
Preventing Ticks from Entering Your Home
Prevention is essential to keep ticks away from your home in the first place. Here are some effective measures to prevent ticks from entering:
- Maintain a tidy yard: Regularly mow the lawn, trim vegetation, and remove leaf litter to eliminate tick habitat.
- Create a barrier: Consider installing a physical barrier, such as a fence, to keep wildlife, which may carry ticks, away from your yard.
- Use tick repellents: Apply appropriate tick repellents containing DEET or permethrin to exposed skin and clothing before going outdoors.
- Check for ticks: Perform thorough tick checks on yourself, your family members, and pets after spending time in tick-prone areas. Remove any ticks promptly.
- Protect your pets: Use tick preventatives recommended by your veterinarian to protect your pets from ticks.
By following these preventive measures and being vigilant about detecting and removing ticks, you can significantly reduce the risk of tick infestations and protect yourself and your family from the potential dangers they pose. Remember, if you have concerns about tick bites or suspect any tick-borne diseases, it is always recommended to seek medical advice.