Was it an American dog tick that bit you, a Lone Star tick, or a blacklegged (deer) tick? It matters! Each species of tick is host to different diseases due to specific physical gut adaptations (e.g. blacklegged ticks are the only ones that can transmit Lyme disease bacteria), so knowing the type of tick you encountered is critical to knowing which pathogen(s) may have been transmitted.
What about life stage? Knowing whether it is a larvae, nymph, male or female adult also helps you to determine how risky that tick is. For example, larvae of all species are generally pathogen-free, but adult females carry much more risk of transmitting a disease because they have had time to become infected while feeding throughout their life cycle. Adult males ticks are also generally infected but because they don’t feed, they rarely transmit diseases. Seasonal and regional variations also affect tick activity, so be aware of which ticks are out when and where depending on your location.
Learn more about how to identify ticks here.
Frequent tick checks are important because the longer a tick feeds, the greater the risk of disease transmission. Try pairing the check with an activity you already do on a daily basis like showering, or changing into PJs at night. Make sure to check in hard to see places like behind knees, under arms, in belly buttons, and along hairlines. If you find an attached tick, remove it with pointy tweezers and consider saving it to be tested for diseases (or at least snap a picture before disposing of it).
Permethrin is one of the most effective tick repellents and it can safely be applied to clothing to make staying TickSafe as easy as getting dressed. You can buy pre-treated clothing, or have your kids’ camp clothing, your yardwork or hiking attire treated with safe, odorless repellant that lasts up to 70 washes. Keeping tiny nymphal ticks from crawling up your legs is easy! Plan to treat your shoes with a permethrin spray once a month from May-August during the peak nymphal season. Learn more here.
While you may not be thinking about lawn care while the grass is covered with snow, now is the time to start preparing for warmer months and how you’ll keep your yard TickSafe. Protect you and your family from disease-spreading ticks by planning to do perimeter spray treatments, placing mouse-targeted devices, or simply keeping shrubs and grasses trimmed, deer fences in place, and wood piles cleared to make your yard unattractive to ticks and the wildlife that carry them.
TickSmart Backyard Breakdown: Identify and Eliminate Tick Habitat
Many people think that when it gets cold, they no longer need to apply tick preventative to their pets. Wrong! Blacklegged (deer) ticks are active all winter long when temperatures are at or above freezing and they aren’t covered by snow. Make sure you’re protecting your dog and/or cat with preventative year round as well as performing frequent tick checks to remove any that may be wandering before they drop off in your home. Some preventatives require the tick to bite and feed before obtaining a lethal dose of the preventative, so do your homework on which product is right for you. If you don’t already, consider vaccinating your dog against Lyme disease if you live in an endemic area. For those who’ve already been vaccinated, a booster should be scheduled at the end of the summer prior to the start of adult deer tick season. Talk to your vet about which formulation is right for your dog.