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Summer how to: avoiding and removing ticks

Tick on a plant strawTicks carry disease

Ticks are external parasites that live on the blood of birds and mammals such as livestock, dogs, deer, rodents, and humans. In the science world, they are known as “vectors” which means they carry diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. Georgia is home to three tick species that can be problematic to humans. Concerned parents, hikers, golfers, and gardeners, and pet owners should reduce exposure to ticks, use insect repellent, and remove ticks properly in order to avoid tick-borne diseases.

Unmowed areas are happy homes for ticks

Ticks survive best in high grass/brushy areas with high levels of moisture. The best way to avoid them is to keep the yard mowed and stay in areas where the vegetation is below ankle height. Think twice before treading off the path; host-seeking ticks are waiting for you there.

Proper clothing and insect repellent are essential

Working or hiking in high grass requires extra clothing and insect repellent. UGA Extension publication C937 titled “Protect Yourself from Ticks” gives a detailed list of precautions.

Protect your pet too

Don’t forget about the family pet. Dogs can serve as a reservoir for both Lyme disease and RMS Fever. Check with the vet to make sure your pet receives annual screening for vector-borne diseases. And remember, pets should receive ongoing treatment for fleas/ticks/heartworms.

Check for ticks and remove carefully

Ticks are tricky. They locate hosts by detecting exhaled carbon dioxide and body warmth. They can attach to any part of the body and seem to specialize in hard-to-see areas. After a day of hiking or play, conduct a full-body tick check: underarms, belly button, hair and ears, legs, and waist. YouTube provides tutorials on how to properly remove ticks from the body. Absolutely do not use nail polish, petroleum jelly, or matches in the process.

Make sure to examine the gear and pets after a hike; both provide a handy way for ticks to enter the home. Bathe or shower as soon as possible. If you find a live tick, submerse it in alcohol and flush it down the toilet. Don’t crush a tick with your fingers. Check out CDC.gov/lyme for a wealth of information about personal protection against tick-borne diseases.

Bottom line—GO enjoy nature; but “STOP”– Stop Ticks On People/Pets.

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