The weather is warm, gardeners are itching to get outside – and ticks are lying in wait.
Several potentially serious illnesses, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, can be transmitted via tick bite. But that shouldn’t keep gardeners out of their favorite patches.
Ticks can’t jump or fly. Instead, they climb onto shrubs or blades of grass and ambush any host that has the misfortune of brushing by. It’s during their feeding process that the tiny bloodsuckers often transmit disease-causing pathogens.
After selecting a prime dining spot – warm and humid – a tick cuts into your skin’s surface and inserts a feeding tube. You probably won’t feel it because tick saliva has anesthetic properties.
By the time a tick finds a human host, there’s no telling where it’s been.
If any of its previous hosts has a bloodborne infection, the tick will have ingested pathogens along with the blood. Unfortunately, ticks are generous creatures. They’re happy to share with other hosts, transmitting pathogens through their saliva during leisurely luncheons.
Three types of disease-carrying ticks are commonly found in Georgia: the lone star tick, the American dog tick and the black-legged (deer) tick.
To protect yourself before and after you venture outside, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following:
• Use insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. Also, use veterinarian-recommended tick preventives regularly on dogs and cats.
• Treat shoes, pants, socks and other clothing and gear with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin.
• After coming inside, check for ticks – especially under the arms and inside the navel, in and around the ears, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and on the hairline and scalp. Shower immediately.
• If you find a tick has attached itself to you, remove it right away using fine-tipped tweezers and getting as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, iodine scrub, or soap and water.
• If you want, you can bring the tick to you health care provider for identification. Put it in rubbing alcohol or place it in a sealed bag/container.
• Don’t make a home for ticks. Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of yards. Keep your lawn mowed and leaves raked. Place playground equipment, furniture and other outdoor items in sunny locations, and remove any yard trash that could give ticks a place to hide.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov .