Tick Infestations

Written by Darla Burke | Published on June 29, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

Ticks and the Diseases They Carry

Ticks are small brown parasites that live in wooded areas and fields. These organisms need blood from humans or animals to survive. Unfortunately, ticks also tend to be carriers of diseases and can pass these diseases onto the people they bite.

Examples of diseases that may be transmitted by ticks include:

  • Lyme disease
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • tularemia
  • babesiosis
  • ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis
  • relapsing fever

What Causes Tick Infestations?

Tick infestations can occur when even a single tick is brought into the home.

If you have wooded or brushy areas near your home and are outdoors when the weather is warm, it is possible for you to come into contact with a tick. The tick will attach itself somewhere on your body and bury its head in your skin. Ticks can attach themselves anywhere on the body—including under the arms, inside the ears, in the hair and inside of the belly button. Ticks can also attach themselves to your pets.

If you or a pet brings a tick into your home, a tick infestation may occur once it reproduces. Ticks can lay their eggs in different parts of the home and since they are very small, they may not be easily noticed. Ticks typically lay their eggs in cracks and crevasses in floorboards.

What Are the Signs of a Tick Infestation?

Tick infestations that occur in the home can result in a large number of ticks found on your body or on your pet. Since ticks require blood from people or animals to survive, ticks in your home will attach themselves to you, your family members or your pets.

Ticks move quickly across the body, however, they seek out areas that are warm and moist. They are often found in the armpits, groin or scalp of a person. Once the tick has found a place it likes, it will bite you and attach its head firmly to your skin. Unlike other insect bites, this bite is painless.

You should always check your body—and those of your children and pets—after being outside in an area known to have ticks. Make sure to examine any brown or black spots, and not just focus on the common areas. Ticks range in size from slightly smaller than a pinkie nail to barely visible.

Another way to tell that there are ticks in your home is if you develop a tick-borne illness. The effects of these illnesses can range from mild to severe. Still, manyhave similar symptoms, such as:

  • fever and/or chills
  • body aches and pains similar to the flu
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • a rash

Many symptoms of these illnesses mimic those of other health conditions. Rashes that develop with tick-borne illnesses may make it easier for your doctor to diagnose you. However, sometimes the rashes disappear following the onset of other symptoms.

If you have symptoms and know that you have been in areas where ticks live or your home was infested, you should see your doctor right away. He or she can properly diagnosis a tick-borne illness. Early diagnosis is essential to prevent any long-term complications associated with these diseases.

How Can You Control and Prevent Tick Infestations?

Ticks that are not attached to the skin can be vacuumed up. The vacuum bag should be sealed and discarded to a location outside of your home immediately. You should check yourself and your clothing after vacuuming to ensure that no ticks remain on you.

You may also use spray or powder insecticides to help kill ticks inside your home.

Although it is possible to control a tick infestation once it occurs, it is far better to prevent an infestation from occurring in the first place.

If you live or play in an area where ticks are common, you should check yourself and your children before returning indoors. You can also wear long clothing, or tuck your pants into your socks while hiking on trails or in wooded areas. Try to wear insect repellant that works on ticks. You can also buy certain types of clothing that contains insect repellant in the fabric.

To remove a tick that is already biting you or a family member, you should pinch it close to its mouth. Then, pull it slowly and steadily. Never try to twist a tick out, burn it, or kill it with Vaseline, oil, or alcohol. Such methods may cause the mouth to remain in your body and cause infection.

In order to prevent ticks from infesting areas near your home,try to make the surrounding property unsuitable. Ticks do not like dry environments and cannot live in short vegetation. Keeping weeds and brush away from your home and maintaining your lawn will help you to eliminate ticks near your property.

If your home is surrounded by heavy brush or wooded areas where ticks are commonly found, you can spray these areas with insecticides to help eliminate ticks. Most insecticides will be effective with one or two applications. You should also clean up any areas around your home that may attract rodents, since they often carry ticks. Woodpiles or spilled birdseed may also attract rodents.

You should regularly check your pets for the parasites. Ticks are more commonly found on animals that are allowed to go outside. If you find a tick on your pet, remove it and call your veterinarian. Your pet may need treatment for a tick bite. You can also buy certain medications for your pet that repel ticks.

When Should You Contact Your Doctor?

If a tick bites you and you develop symptoms of a tick-borne illness, you should call your doctor. One of the first signs will be a rash, accompanied by a fever. Antibiotics are typically used to treat tick-borne illnesses. Your doctor will be able to diagnose you correctly and prescribe the right antibiotic for treatment.

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