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Health & Science

It's tick season. Here's how to stay safe while enjoying the outdoors.

Black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, can carry Lyme disease.
Kenneth H Thomas
/
Science Source/Getty Images
Not all ticks carry Lyme disease. But blacklegged ticks — also called deer ticks — do.

It's tick season and right now across Northeast Ohio the little bloodsuckers are positioning themselves on tips of tall grasses and shrubs along well-used paths, waiting for an unsuspecting host to pass by.

Unfortunately for people, this behavior (known as questing) coincides with the time of year when we also hit the trails.

“Ticks and people are active around the same time,” said Brent Rollins, the Healthy Home Manager at Summit County Public Health (SCPH). “During the winter, ticks go dormant as well as most people because it's cold out. And what happens is when it gets warm, the ticks become active, and we... become active too.”

Experts say that this year is no worse than normal for the little insects and, if you take preventative measures, they are no reason to avoid the outdoors.

People exploring trails and wooded areas should take preventative measures against ticks, according to SCPH, including:

  • Avoid wooded areas with high grass and brush
  • Use bug repellant that has at least 30% DEET
  • Wear long pants and tuck them into your socks
  • Wear light colored clothing because it makes it easier to see ticks
  • Check for ticks regularly, including the places ticks like to hide: your hair, under your arms, behind the knees and in your belly button
  • Check your kids and pets after they have been outside in areas where ticks may live

If you find a tick, remove it as soon as possible to prevent further complications, experts say.

Dr. Sean McNeeley, medical director of University Hospital’s Urgent Care network recommends using a credit card or anything with a flat surface to push ticks off.

“Theoretically, it’s better than tweezers because you’re actually pushing it off instead of squeezing the body of the tick,” said McNeeley. “That is the ideal way. But once again, getting it off is most important.”

In a pinch, tweezers work too.

Hold the tick around the head and pull it straight out, said Rollins.

“Don’t twist or anything like that... because if you grab the abdomen and pull, it could break the head off and you might need to actually go to a medical treatment facility to have the head removed.”

If you are bitten, clean the area around the bite and keep an eye out for symptoms of Lyme disease, including fever, circular rashes and muscle or joint pain for the next week or so, the health department said. Contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms.

Not all kinds of ticks carry Lyme disease. Northeast Ohio is home to several different types of ticks, including deer ticks, also known as blacklegged ticks, which can carry the disease.

Experts say that while it can be disconcerting to be bitten by a tick, a bite doesn't necessarily mean you will get Lyme disease.

“You first have to have a deer tick. The deer tick has to have Lyme disease. The deer tick has to get on you, bite you, and transmit it to you, which may take up to 24 hours,” said Dr. McNeeley. “So it has to be the right tick, has to be infected, it has to get to you and infect you. And then, you have to go untreated, and then you can get Lyme disease.”