You just returned indoors after a relaxing day outside after spending time with your family and friends in your back yard. You have also learned to check yourself and family for ticks after returning inside. Suddenly you spot a tick on your neck. You know finding a tick on your neck, scalp and ears is common because the skin is thin there and easy for them to get the blood they want. What now? What type of tick is it and what disease does your tick carry?
Whenever you find a tick embedded in your skin or that of a family member, you need to know what action to take and determine your risk of infection. Not all ticks transmit the same infectious diseases. With almost 80 species of ticks in the US, it’s important to know the ones you might find in South Carolina.
South Carolina has three common species of tick. The Deer tick or blacklegged tick is the most common. Deer ticks carry Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis. They live near wooded areas and fields. They got the name deer tick because they are frequently found attached to the whitetail deer. Homes built in areas near lots of deer are likely to have more ticks in their yard.
Lone Star ticks are the next most common tick in our state. They are found in woodlands and dense undergrowth where animals are sheltered and like to rest. This specie is responsible for transmitting Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and ‘Stari’ borreliosis. These ticks are aggressive biters of people.
Less common in our state is the Dog tick. Dog ticks like grassy fields and low scrub areas. They also like hanging out along trails and walkways. Dog ticks have various hosts that range in size from mice to deer. The diseases they carry are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia. Dog ticks are very hardy and can survive for two years in between blood meals.
If a tick is embedded in your skin, don’t panic. Scientists believe it takes up to 24 hours before the tick transmits any bacteria. What is important is that you know how to safely remove the tick. If you are concerned about infection, make an appointment with your doctor and take the tick for testing. Even ticks damaged from being removed can be tested for tick-borne bacteria. If you experience the flu-like symptoms of a tick-borne disease such as fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches or fatigue, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
Reducing your exposure to ticks and checking for ticks every day when you return indoors and is important in staying safe. Since we spend most of our time outdoors in our yards, experts recommend a barrier spray to eliminate ticks on your property. Ticks prefer dark, shady and moist areas during the day so keeping shrubs trimmed also helps.