Tick talk: how to avoid the pests and the diseases they carry

Posted at 5:34 PM, Apr 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-12 17:34:41-04

Lots of people will be out enjoying the nice warm weather this weekend, but so will ticks. University of Maryland professor and 'bug guy' has some tips to avoid the pests and the diseases they carry. 

First, avoid them. If you're in the woods, stay on marked trails. Use repellent and wear protective clothing. Tuck your pants into your socks and wear light colors to make ticks easier to spy. 

"You can actually buy materials and compounds that oyu can apply to your clothing, not to your skin, the pant legs and shoes," professor Michael Raupp said. "These are really effective. I use them all the time."

Next, do a full body check when you get home to inspect for any ticks. 

Finally, remove the tick right away. 

"Remove those ticks if you find one, within the first 24 hours. That's going to dramatically reduce the possibility of contracting a tick-borne disease," Raupp said. 

Raupp recommends sending the tick to a lab. He just found a tick on his hip last week, and sent it to be tested. 

"In a week, I will have an analysis of that tick and I'll know if that particular one had any tick-borne illnesses," Raupp said. "Now, it's just a sit and wait game, but I know that if a contracted anything, there are good therapies and I'm going to be just fine."

Still, he says this should be a last resort. You want to avoid the ticks all together because of what they carry. Black legged ticks carry Lyme disease. 

"This is a very serious illness. It's actually a life-threatening illness," Raupp said. 

The lone star tick carries other diseases like Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness and Ehrlichiosis.

"It's much rarer [than Lyme disease] but this is also a very nasty disease," Raupp.

It's important to be aware of where you are. 

"It's not going to matter too much if it's day or night. The important thing is the habitat you're in. If you're going to be in the deep forest where deer are, you may pick up black legged ticks. If you're more in the meadow or the transition zone between the forest and the field or meadow, this is where you can get lone star ticks," Raupp said. 

He says tick populations may also be on the rise. New England states are seeing more ticks and tick-borne diseases. Raupp believes this is because of mild winter weather. 

"Winters are getting warmer, of course with climate change, and they have been wetter and this is actually favored ticks in places like New England. If Maryland is guided by the same principals of nature, we would expect moist warm winters to favor ticks and we could see an increase in things like Lyme disease in Maryland as well," Raupp said. 

You can visit Tick Report to order a tick test kit, or Bay Area Lyme Foundation to learn about free options.