By Nancy C. Hinkle
University of Georgia
Spraying the yard with an insecticide often makes the problem worse. Insecticides kill predatory insects that help keep tick numbers down.
If you want to apply an pesticide to your pet, check the product label to make sure it kills ticks. Compounds registered for fleas aren't always effective against ticks.
Ticks are found mainly on low-growing plants along paths and trails, waiting to snare a passing host by hooking their legs into an animal's leg hair or a human's pants cuff.
Haven for ticksAvoid tall grass and brushy or weedy areas as much as possible. Walk in the middle of trails to avoid brushing against surrounding vegetation. And don't sit down on the ground.
Protecting yourself from ticks includes wearing clothing that limits their access to your skin, applying appropriate repellents and performing daily tick checks.
Wear long pants where ticks are around and tuck your cuffs into socks to keep them from crawling under the pant leg. For the best protection, tape the top of your socks over your pant legs, then twist the tape and make one wrap with the sticky side out to trap ticks. It's easier to spot ticks on light-colored clothes.
Be carefulYou can apply products containing DEET to your skin. (But follow label instructions. Pay particular attention to cautions for children.)
Apply products such as Permanone, which contain permethrin, to clothes but not to skin. Spray these products on your clothes and allow them to dry overnight before you put them on. Permethrin will kill both ticks and mosquitoes that land on treated clothing.
A tick takes a day or two to secrete a feeding tube before it can begin to suck blood. So daily tick checks can keep them from feeding and transmitting diseases. Look and feel for ticks carefully, especially in hair-covered places.
Examine FidoCheck your pets after they've been outside, too. Destroying ticks before they can feed not only protects pets from diseases but reduces tick reproduction.
To remove a tick, use tweezers, grasping the tick as close to the skin as you can. Pull slowly and firmly, without twisting or crushing the tick.
A tick is like a balloon attached to a hypodermic needle. Squeezing its body forces material through its mouthparts into your bloodstream, increasing the risk of infection.
It's a good idea to keep the tick in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a few weeks. If the person bitten later develops symptoms of a tick-transmitted disease, it can be tested to determine the causative agent.
VigilanceBe especially watchful for the first two weeks after a tick bite. If flu-like symptoms, headache, fever, lack of balance, skin rashes, muscle or joint pain or nausea develop, see a doctor.
The most common tick in Georgia is the lone star tick (the female has a white dot on the middle of her back). American dog ticks are common and can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. Black-legged ticks, or deer ticks, carry Lyme disease.
Of the dozens of tick species in Georgia, the brown dog tick is the most troublesome household pest. It doesn't attack humans. But it does transmit some canine diseases.
The six-legged seed tick attaches to a dog and becomes bluish-gray, engorged with blood. It molts and becomes a larger, eight-legged, reddish-brown nymph. After engorging with blood again the nymph, now dark gray, molts and becomes a reddish-brown adult.
When it engorges yet again on the dog's blood, it's bluish and about a third of an inch long. The adult female lays 1,000 to 3,000 eggs.
(Nancy Hinkle is an Extension Service entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
(Nancy Hinkle is a Cooperative Extension entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)