How to Get Rid of Ticks: The Ultimate Guide
As proud Tennesseans, we all know that not only are ticks a nuisance, but they can infect us with a range of unpleasant diseases and illnesses. These nasty little pests use their tenacious grip to latch onto just about anything with a pulse. Combined with the fact that they’re extremely tough to detect, ticks represent a formidable foe for any Southerner.
In this guide, we’ll cover common diseases that are transmitted by ticks in Tennessee and how to keep the blood-suckers out of your yard and home and off of your kids and pets.
Diseases Transmitted by Ticks in Tennessee
Ticks represent direct harm to both humans and pets. They’re extremely small (usually only a couple millimeters in size), making them hard to see. Even if they’re biting you, they’re difficult to detect, as they secrete an anesthetic into their host before latching on. If this happens, the tick may cause a skin irritation or allergic reaction, possibly alerting you to their presence a few days after you’ve been bitten.
Ticks also transmit a wide variety of pathogens, most notably Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Human Monocytic Ehrlichiosis, or Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness. Fortunately, Lyme Disease is extremely rare in Tennessee as it’s transmitted by Ixodes scapularis, a tick that is rarely encountered in the state.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), however, is a common tick-borne illness in the Volunteer State. The disease is characterized by fever, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches and is often accompanied by a red, splotchy rash that originates on the hands and feet (UT Institute of Agriculture). The fever can be very serious and should be treated immediately.
Human Monocytic Ehrlichiosis
After RMSP, Human Monocytic Ehrlichiosis (HME) is the second most common tick-borne illness reported in Tennessee (Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases). The CDC reports that the highest incidence rates of this rare disease occur in Tennessee.
Carried by the Lone Star tick, symptoms of this rare disease generally appear about three weeks after being bitten by an infected tick. Although infection can occur at any time, a majority of cases reported to the CDC occur during May, June, July, and August.
The National Organization for Rare Disorders notes that “Symptoms may initially include fever, chills, headaches, muscle pain (myalgia), and a general feeling of weakness and fatigue (malaise). In some cases, a rash may appear on the skin. Symptoms may then progress to include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite (anorexia), and/or weight loss. Some affected individuals may also experience coughing, diarrhea, sore throat (pharyngitis), and pain in the abdominal area. In most cases of HME, there is also an abnormal decrease in white blood cells (leukopenia), a low number of circulating blood platelets (thrombocytopenia), and/or an abnormal increase in the level of certain liver enzymes (hepatic transaminases). Some affected individuals may also experience inflammation of the liver (hepatitis).
Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness
Although the symptoms of Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI) are quite similar to Lyme Disease, no chronic, arthritic, or neurological symptoms have been accredited to the disease.
In a development that has gotten a bit of press in recent months, the Lone Star tick has also been spreading a syndrome that effectively renders the tick’s hosts allergic to meat. Both National Geographic and Nashville’s own Vanderbilt Medical Center have reported on an uptick in cases of Alpha-Gal allergies. If a tick that latches onto you has recently had a meal of the blood of another mammal, it could prime the immune system to respond adversely to a sugar called Alpha-Gal. This sugar is prevalent in red meat, meaning that if you eat it after contracting the syndrome, you could have a serious allergic reaction.
Tick Control for Your Yard
Enough about diseases, let’s talk about killing these things.
The best way to control ticks in your yard is to practice proper lawn maintenance. First and foremost, that means mowing your lawn and keeping it short. Ticks love shady, moist, and quiet, undisturbed areas. Mowed lawns allow for better drainage and evaporation, depriving ticks of the water they need to survive. Further, short grass exposes ticks to both the sun and predators like birds, both of which kill ticks effectively.
In addition to mowing, keep your yard free of fallen leaves and dead brush, and neatly stacking firewood in a dry place to avoid creating dark, damp hiding spots.
Need help keeping ticks off your property? U.S. Pest specializes in Extended Lawn Care services that can remove ticks, and other pests, from your lawn and landscaping. Check out our yard maintenance services.
Indoor Tick Control
Ticks generally don’t set up shop indoors, but if you live an active indoor/outdoor life or have kids or pets, it can happen.
If ticks set up shop in your home, they generally hang out in your clothing and linens. You can take care of this by minimizing piles of dirty laundry and washing your outdoor clothing immediately. As with most bugs, there are also a variety of indoor pesticides and professional treatments around that can kill ticks effectively.
While they’re happy to hitch a ride on just about any warm-blooded creature, the most likely way a tick would find its way into your home is on the back or belly or legs of an indoor-outdoor pet.
Keeping Your Pets Tick-Free
Unfortunately, if you have a furry friend, that very fur is one of the factors that makes them vulnerable to ticks. Ticks use fur as makeshift shield as they burrow into your pet’s skin. If your pet spends time outdoors (as with most dogs, for instance), then it carries a substantial vulnerability to tick bites and you should certainly keep a close eye out for tick hitchhikers.
The good news is, there are plenty of effective solutions for this particular problem. Anti-tick shampoos and sprays work well to eliminate an acute tick problem, but these remedies don’t cover your pets in the long-term and may even cause skin irritations. Tick-preventative collars and medicines are generally highly effective and long-lasting. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian to find the right treatment for your pet.
How to Deal with Tick Bites
If you discover you have a tick, try to get it out as quickly as possible. If you spend a significant amount of time outdoors, we recommend scanning yourself and your loved ones for ticks at the end of each day.
If you find a tick, remove it immediately. Here’s a step-by-step guide for pulling out tips, as recommended by the CDC:
- Using a clean, fine-tipped pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible
- Applying steady and gentle pressure, pull outward from your skin. Do not twist or jerk the tick, as this could dislodge the tick’s body while leaving the mouthparts in your body. Also, take care not to puncture or crush the tick, as its fluids may be infectious.
- If you do separate the body from the mouth, it’s okay. Try to remove the mouth after cleaning the tweezers, and if it’s not doable, leave it alone and clean the skin.
- Kill the tick by submerging it in alcohol, or flushing it down the toilet. If possible, try to preserve the dead tick in a ziplock bag so it can be identified if you develop symptoms.
- Thoroughly clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- If you develop a rash or fever, consult a doctor.
Well, that should cover just about everything you ever wanted to know about ticks. Let us know if we missed anything! Give us a call, we’re happy to help.
Did you like this guide? If so check out our Ultimate Guide to Mosquito Prevention.