If you are enjoying time outdoors in the late summer and fall in Tennessee, you can have an unwanted tick encounter.
Ah, yes. The ticks of Tennessee – or Tennessee ticks as we more frequently refer to them. No, they’re not a new sports team, or an up and coming music ensemble. They are those vile, disgusting creatures that are invertebrate animals that are related to spiders.
Let’s say you have found a tick attached to your skin. What do you do next? What should anyone do if they get bit by a tick? First things first – let’s remove that nasty arachnid! Don’t slap it or push it into your skin. It must be removed promptly and properly.
To safely remove a tick, remain calm and grab a pair of pointy tweezers and have some rubbing alcohol nearby or soap and water. Pointy tweezers aren’t the typical household tweezers that you use to pluck your eyebrows. You want pointy tips, not squared-off ones. Why? Because ticks can be as small as a poppy seed. If you use regular tweezers, you might tear them.
Once you have your tools, here’s what to do:
1. Clean the area around the tick bite with rubbing alcohol.
2. Get your tweezers right down on your skin so you can grab as close as possible to the tick’s head.
3. Pull up slow and firm. Don’t jerk or twist you hand; a nice, steady pressure straight up will do.
4. Clean the bite area again, and your hands, with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
Ticks of Tennessee Could Pose a Threat to Your Health
There are six prevalent types of ticks in Tennessee, and each has its own potential threat. Before we get into the types of ticks and the diseases they might be carrying, let’s talk a little more about proper cleaning of your tick wound.
Use soap and warm water to cleanse the wound, or an alcohol swab if you like. Be vigilant and be sure to keep an eye out for potential bite infection. If you suspect that you do have an infection, call a doctor for appropriate treatment.
Symptoms to be on the watch for include a small, red bump, similar to the bump of a mosquito bite, which often appears at the site of a tick bite. Also watch for the appearance of a rash on your skin. Three to 30 days after an infected tick bite, an expanding red area might appear that sometimes clears in the center, forming a bull's-eye pattern. The rash expands slowly over days and can spread to 12 inches across. It's typically not itchy or painful but might feel warm to the touch. Other symptoms after a tick bite may include fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, headache, neck stiffness and swollen lymph nodes. Your best defense is knowing what to look for and acting quickly and responsibly.
Let’s Talk About These Tennessee Ticks!
Ticks are nothing new to Tennessee, and if you grew up here, especially in rural areas, you have probably encountered your fair share. Here are the types you could see in Tennessee:
1. The American Dog Tick or Wood Tick: Their bites can result in tularemia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The highest risk of being bitten occurs in spring and summer.
2. The Black Legged Tick or Deer Tick: This creature transmits Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and the Powassan virus. They may bite humans any time of the year when the temperatures are above freezing.
3. The Gulf Coast Tick: It transmits Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It mostly feeds on birds, small rodents, deer, and other wildlife.
4. The Asian Longhorned Tick: This invasive species can reproduce quickly and cause infestations. It is commonly found in the eastern United States and more recently in eastern Tennessee.
5. The Brown Dog Tick: These varmints are distributed worldwide. They also transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. They primarily bites dogs but they can also attach to humans or other mammals.
6. The Lonestar Tick: Frequently found in the eastern and southeastern United States, they are very aggressive creatures distinguishable by a white dot on the backs of adult females. They are infamous for transmitting ehrlichiosis, tularemia, Heartland virus, STARI, and Alpha-gal Syndrome.