(WGHP) — Warmer weather means there will be plenty of fun things to do outside but also tiny dangers to look out for.
Ticks can be found throughout North Carolina and carry serious diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Now that April is here, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that bites will begin to spike and hit a peak in May.
But don’t worry. There are a variety of things you can do to keep yourself and your pets safe from these pesky bloodsuckers, starting with knowing what types of ticks live in North Carolina.
The four types of ticks to be aware of in North Carolina are:
The black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick)
The black-legged tick is active in late fall and early spring and will feed on a variety of small to large-sized mammals. They can transmit Lyme disease.
The lone star tick
The lone star tick primarily resides in the coastal plain but can be found as far west as the Piedmont Triad. It readily feeds on humans and large mammals in all phases of life. These ticks can cause a rash similar to a rash found with Lyme disease, though they are not caused by the same organism.
They can, however, cause an Alpha-gal allergy, which is an allergy to mammal meat. Find out more about Alpha-gal on the CDC website.
This tick is most commonly found in the summer months, though it can be seen in a larval stage in the fall.
The American dog tick
The American dog tick is a common tick that lives along woodland trails and other shrubby habitats. It is not a carrier of Lyme disease, but it can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. In its adult stage, it prefers to bite dogs and humans.
This tick is not active during winter.
The brown dog tick
These ticks rarely bother people and exclusively feed on dogs. The females sometimes lay eggs in cracks and crevices of dog kennels or in building foundations. If not cleaned properly, that can cause the population to spike out of control.
This tick can be found in North Carolina year-round.
While the threat of Lyme disease is only found in black-legged ticks, which prefer spring and fall temperatures to summer, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other tick-borne diseases to be aware of.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is very harmful to people and domestic dogs. It can be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, it can sometimes cause death.
The symptoms include:
- muscle pain
- possible rash
A tick must be attached for at least six hours to transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and at least 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease, so checking yourself after any time spent in an environment that could have ticks is very important.
In addition to Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and STARI (southern tick-associated rash illness), ticks can also spread ehrlichiosis.
This is primarily carried by lone star ticks, and the symptoms are similar to Rocky Mountain spotty fever.
Try to stay out of overgrown, weeded areas. If you can, layer your clothing and tuck your pants into your socks. Wearing light-colored clothing can make ticks easier to see before they get onto your skin.
Insect repellents are effective against ticks and should be applied liberally.
Trying to avoid tick-infested areas while picking a campsite? Use a piece of white fabric and brush it across the ground. If you get ticks on the fabric, pick a new place.
Checking yourself frequently for ticks is key to preventing tick-borne illness.
If you get a tick on you, follow these steps to remove it:
- Use tweezers to grab the tick as close to the surface of your skin as possible.
- Pull up with steady pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick since that can cause the mouth-parts to break off and stay in your skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you can’t remove the mouth with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After the tick has been removed, clean the bitten area with alcohol or wash it with soap and water.
- Never crush a tick. Instead, flush it down the toilet, put it in a sealed bag, wrap it tightly in tape or put it in alcohol.
Keeping your pets safe
It’s also good to frequently check your pets for ticks, especially if they’ve been outside, because they can get a variety of diseases from ticks such as:
- Lyme disease
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- canine ehrlichiosis
The CDC recommends talking to your veterinarian about the best tick prevention products for your dogs and making sure you know what kinds of ticks live in your area.
Reducing the tick habitat in your yard is another great way to keep your pets safe from the bloodsuckers.
Keeping ticks out of your yard
Keep your yard mowed and free of leaf litter to avoid creating a prime environment for ticks.
For large-scale infestations, pesticides can be used to cut down on the tick population. Be mindful of your use of pesticides and follow the instructions exactly.
Don’t let bitey little bugs ruin your summer. With the right preparations, ticks won’t be a problem for you or your family.