Ticks are small parasitic organisms that live in wooded areas and fields. These arachnids need blood from humans or animals to survive. Ticks tend to be carriers of various serious diseases, which they may transmit to the people they bite.
Examples of diseases that ticks may transmit include:
- Lyme disease (especially transmitted by adult deer ticks)
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- babesiosis (a malaria-like illness transmitted by certain ticks)
- tick-borne relapsing fever
Symptoms vary among the different diseases, but they may include fever or chills, body aches, headaches, rashes, and nausea. These symptoms can occur in a person years after they were bitten.
Tick infestations can occur when just one tick is brought into the home.
It’s possible for you to come into contact with a tick if there are wooded or brushy areas near your home and you’re outdoors when the weather is warm. The tick will attach itself somewhere on your body and bury its head into your skin.
Ticks can attach themselves to any part of the body, including:
- the groin
- under the arms
- inside the ears
- in the hair
- inside the belly button
- behind the knee
Ticks can also attach themselves to your pets, especially dogs. Since ticks are usually small, it can be hard to see them on your body or in your pet’s fur.
After a tick is brought into your home, a tick infestation may occur once the tick reproduces. Ticks can lay their eggs in different parts of the home. However, they typically lay their eggs near baseboards, window and door surrounds, furniture, edges of rugs, and curtains.
During a tick infestation in your home, you might find a large number of ticks on yourself or on your pet. Since ticks require blood from people or animals to survive, they will attach themselves to you, your family members, or your pet.
Ticks move quickly across the body, but they prefer areas that are warm and moist. They are often found in the armpits, groin, or scalp. Once the tick has found a place it likes, it will bite you and burrow its head firmly into your skin. Unlike other insect bites, this bite is painless.
You should always check your body — and that of your children and pets — after being in an outside area known to have ticks. Make sure to examine any brown or black spots. Don’t just focus on the areas where ticks are commonly found. Ticks range in size from 1 to 2 millimeters (mm) in diameter (the size of a poppy seed) to as large as 10 mm in diameter (the size of a pencil eraser).
You may also have a tick infestation in your home if you or one of your family members develops a tick-borne illness. The effects of these illnesses can range from mild to severe. Many of them have similar symptoms, such as:
Many symptoms of these illnesses are similar to those of other health conditions. Rashes that develop with tick-borne illnesses may make it easier for your doctor to make a diagnosis. However, sometimes the rashes disappear after other symptoms occur and the illness progresses.
You should see your doctor right away if you have symptoms and have been in areas where ticks live, or if your home was recently infested. They can properly diagnosis a tick-borne illness. Early diagnosis is essential to prevent any long-term complications associated with these diseases.
Ticks that aren’t attached to the skin can be vacuumed up. The vacuum bag should be tightly sealed and immediately discarded to a location outside of your home. You should check your clothing and your body after vacuuming to ensure that no ticks are on you.
You may also use spray or powder pesticide to help kill ticks inside your home.
Although it’s possible to control a tick infestation once it occurs, it’s far better to prevent an infestation from happening in the first place.
If you live or spend time in an area where ticks are common, you should check yourself and your children before returning indoors. You can also wear long-sleeved shirts and tuck your pants into your socks while hiking on trails or in wooded areas. Try to use insect repellant that works on ticks. You may also buy certain types of clothing that contain insect repellant in the fabric.
To remove a tick that is already biting you or a family member, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible using tweezers or a tissue. Then pull it out slowly and steadily without twisting. Before pulling the tick from the skin, don’t use Vaseline, oil, or alcohol to try to kill the tick. These methods may cause the tick’s mouth to remain in your body, which can lead to infection.
After it’s removed, per the CDC, the tick can then be drowned in rubbing alcohol, suffocated in a sealed bag or between layers of tape, or flushed down the toilet for extermination.
To prevent ticks from infesting areas near your home, try to make the surrounding property unsuitable for ticks. Ticks don’t like sunny, dry environments and can’t thrive in short vegetation. Keeping weeds and brush away from your home and maintaining your lawn will help you get rid of 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 pesticides to help eliminate ticks. Most pesticides will be effective with one or two applications. You should also clean up any areas around your home that may attract rodents (such as mice and rats), since they often carry ticks.
Regularly check your pets for ticks and apply tick prevention. Ticks are more commonly found on animals that are allowed to roam 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 prevent ticks from attaching.
You should call your doctor if a tick bites you and you develop symptoms of a tick-borne illness. One of the first signs will be a rash, accompanied by a fever. Antibiotics are typically used to treat tick-borne illnesses, as many are bacterial. Your doctor will be able to give you the correct diagnosis and prescribe the right antibiotic for treatment.