Tick invasion 101

Learn how to prevent, recognize, and protect yourself from ticks in this comprehensive guide. 

 

There’s no doubt about it; ticks have become a big problem here in the Midwest. Experts have stated that in 2021, Iowa (along with Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and a few other states) has reached an ‘above average threat level,’ which means we all need to be vigilant when protecting ourselves, our families, and our pets. And in our opinion, the best weapon when it comes to protecting yourself from ticks—is knowledge! 

Read on to learn how to recognize a tick bite, how to keep yourself, your yard, and your pets safe, and how to prevent tick bites, plus more.

 

tick bug in tweezers

How to Recognize a Tick Bite

Since ticks are nasty little buggers that often attach themselves to the person or animal they decide to bite, likely, you may find the tick itself, which is a best-case scenario. The reason being that if you happen to live in a high-risk area for tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, you can take the tick itself in to be tested.

If you don’t find the tick, though, figuring out how to recognize a bite can be a little tricky. Tick bites can look similar to other bug bites, and the reaction varies from person to person. While one person may only be left with a small red bump, another might end up with a larger red, itchy area. One thing to note, though, is that tick bites are normally singular. They do not bite in groups or lines. 

For the most part, tick bites are not likely to cause any physical signs or symptoms. How to recognize whether or not you are allergic to a tick bite will depend on if you end up with any of the following symptoms: 

  • Pain or swelling around or near the bite 
  • A rash
  • Difficulty breathing (if severe) 
  • Blisters
  • A burning feeling near the bite 

Potential symptoms of tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease include:

  • A full-body rash
  • Neck stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes

tick bug on a leaf

How to Recognize a Tick

There are literally hundreds of different kind of ticks in North America and beyond, but most of the concern surrounding the tick-borne disease is based on three of the main tick groups: 

  • Blacklegged ticks (includes deer ticks)
  • Dog ticks
  • Lonestar ticks

All of them look a little different based on the stage of the life cycle they reach. Larvae are so small they look like a grain of sand, ‘nymphs’ (like tick teenagers) are about the size of a sesame seed, and unfed adults grow to about the size of a pencil eraser. They are wingless and are flat, oval-shaped bugs until they’ve eaten—after eating (on us or our precious pets) they grow huge! They can be brown, black, reddish-brown, grayish-white, or yellowish, and they are capable of biting at all of their active life cycles.

 

mowing the lawn

How to Keep Your Yard and Pets Safe from Ticks 

Ticks can be hard to spot, but some basic landscaping techniques will reduce the likelihood of ticks migrating throughout your yard. Mowing your lawn frequently and keeping your yard clear of tall grasses and brush will give them fewer places to hide. Placing a barrier of gravel between your lawn and any wooded areas will help reduce migration. Keeping the raccoon and deer population at bay by constructing fences and keeping your yard clear of old furniture, mattresses, or trash will also help. 

Reducing tick habitats in your yard, as stated above, is the first step to keeping you, your family, and your pets safe. If you’re particularly worried about your furry friends, always be sure to check them over for ticks daily, especially after they come in from the outdoors. If you do find one on your pet, remove it right away, monitor them for symptoms, and contact your veterinarian.

 

covering ankles with socks

Prevention

Using insect repellant and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long, light-colored pants tucked into socks or boots will help protect you from tick bites. Just like with the pets, checking yourself and your family members over after any extended time outdoors will ensure that any potential bites are caught early.

 

What To Do If A Tick Bites You

Always remove the tick as promptly as possible using tweezers to grip the tick’s mouthparts where they are attached to the host, but never squeeze a tick’s body. Instead, you want to pull steadily and gently away from the person or pet’s skin, then clean and disinfect the site of the bite.

We can’t deny that ticks are gross. But in understanding tick habits, how to reduce their habitat, and how to recognize and prevent bites, you’ll be much better equipped this season!

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