A walk in the woods might seem like a great time until you get home and find a tiny bug has latched onto you. Ticks are difficult to see, difficult to properly remove, and can be incredibly dangerous to human health. Knowing how to get rid of ticks is an important skill that everyone should have.
What Are Ticks?
Ticks aren’t actually insects. They have eight legs, but they don’t qualify as a spider either. These bugs are actually part of the mite family, which makes them an external parasite. All species of ticks are mites, but not every mite is actually a tick. There are thousands of tick species around the world today, but thankfully there are only a few that are actually harmful to people or animals. Soft ticks can fill themselves up with blood in just minutes while hard ticks might bury their head into the skin and feed for days at a time.
Ticks are dependent on their hosts for food. Most tick bites are going to be harmless. As long as you remove the entire tick, you’ll be fine. If you are unable to recognize the kind of tick that bit you, then there are testing centers available in most regions that can let you know if there were any dangerous bacteria found within the critter. If the head of the tick remains, then an infection may flare up because of the foreign body that is present.
Deer ticks are the most dangerous ticks that most people will face. These ticks may carry Lyme disease or other similar diseases that can cause chronic issues. Look for black legs on the tick. If you see them, then seek immediate medical treatment.
There are also ticks that can cause a bacteria that is called Borrelia that a female tick can pass along to its offspring. This means even the tiniest of ticks can transmit the bacteria to humans, which will cause a high fever and potentially turn into a disease that can cause arthritis, nerve problems, and even cardiac issues.
Signs of Ticks and Tick Symptoms
If you have tall grass, overhead trees, or wild animals that come around your property, then you’ve got a higher risk of having ticks present on a daily basis. You won’t know if ticks are around because you can’t see them from a distance. The only time you’ll know that you’ve been bitten by one is when it attaches to your body somewhere. They are most often found on the head, neck, or shoulders, but can attach anywhere.
Most people will not feel a tick bite. They will simply feel the tick on their body in some form of an engorged state. It is recommended that a doctor remove the tick, but with proper care, most people can fully remove a tick on their own. Take care to remove the head especially. Fully engorged ticks that look like a bright green egg should probably be removed by a professional.
The symptoms of a tick bite occur only if a bacteria was transmitted. No matter what the infection happens to be, these are the most common symptoms.
- Joint aches.
- Unusual fatigue.
If you live in a high-risk area for Lyme disease and have been bitten by a tick, you may be proactively treated with antibiotics for 14-28 days to prevent disease development.
How To Kill Ticks
You’ll want to remove ticks from your property because the bacteria that makes you sick can actually kill your pets. These mites might be indoors as well, so it is important to keep a clean home if you have pets around. The brown dog tick likes to lurk inside and it likes conditions that are warm and dry. Clothing on the ground is the most common place you’ll find this tick, which will feed on all animals – not just dogs.
Walking outside with socks over the pant legs, long sleeves, and a hat are good prevention measures to stop ticks from biting you. Once you get inside, however, there may be ticks on your clothing that you cannot see. If you just discard your clothing into the laundry or keep it on, you might still be bitten. Use hot water to clean your clothes to make sure the ticks are killed and will release from the fabric.
Don’t put clothing that may have been exposed to ticks in a laundry hamper. Ticks will actually breed under those conditions and you could wind up with a full indoor infestation. Always put clothing from the outdoors directly into your washing machine.
Even with all of your proactive efforts, however, a pet that wanders around outside can pick up a tick that will lay eggs in your pet’s bedding. Make sure to use a pesticide that contains boric acid to kill the eggs and any tick larvae that might be crawling around. For adult ticks, a pyrethrin base is often necessary to kill the mites. You’ll also need to spray the pesticide throughout the entire home, with heavier sprays concentrated around the edges and corners of each room.
Exposing ticks to sunshine will effectively kill them as well. For ticks that are living in the lawn, regular mowing can help to keep these critters at bay. Consider having a zone that is barren of plant-based or grass at the edge of your property, such as decorative gravels, to give your home a buffer zone against wild animals that may carry the ticks to your property. A seasonal tick killer that applies directly to your lawn will also minimize the risks of an infestation by up to 50% and it only needs to be applied once to be effective.
Ticks aren’t just on dogs and deer. These mites can also be on birds. Regularly cleaning any bird feeders that you have will stop the ticks from becoming a problem. Make sure to wear gloves when cleaning to prevent a bite.
DIY Tick Repellent
Tick repellents are an effective way to limit exposure to these sometimes dangerous mites. Make sure to use these DIY methods in conjunction with other techniques, such as using clothing to create a barrier between your skin and a tick.
Providing up to 10 hours of relief from ticks, this repellent is ideal when the conditions are difficult at best. The formula is 98% DEET, so it may be bothersome to some users, but overall the effectiveness is unquestionable. It can even be used with sunscreen. Just rub the sunscreen in first and then apply Repel 100. It’s a spray, but it doesn’t come in a pressurized container so you won’t have to worry about aerosols. There isn’t much odor with the product either, which is a definite plus. The high DEET content means this product isn’t suitable for children, however, and you’ll want to avoid contact with your palms.
Vet’s Best Tick and Flea Spray
This tick killer is safe enough that it can be used in your home every day. It can even be sprayed on your pets as long as they are 3 months old. The formulation is built on clove extract and peppermint oil, which penetrates deep into the tick and interferes with its biological functions. It also weakens the structure of tick eggs and kills tick larvae on contact. It will work on almost any surface in the home. Your cat isn’t really going to like this product, but it is going to kill the ticks that might be attached to the cat.
If you need a powerful insecticide that can kill ticks too for your yard, then this is the product for you. It can be used indoors as well, even in food-handling areas, but can be toxic to pets and kids while the product is wet. This concentrate will yield up to 96 finished gallons of spray, so you’ll have enough to prevent ticks all year long. One spray can provide up to 3 total months of coverage. If you spray too often, however, the ticks can develop a resistance to this insecticide and then you’ll need to look for another product.
Cost of Tick Treatment
If you’re bitten by a tick that happens to transmit a harmful bacteria, then your medical costs could easily become tens of thousands of dollars. Most Lyme disease treatments aren’t covered by health insurance, so blood tests and visits to a Lyme literate doctor are paid directly out of pocket. Spending a few dollars every season to prevent ticks from being on the property is an investment that is well worth making.
In terms of professional strength repellents, many of them have an average price of around $10 per bottle. You’ll get 4 ounces of repellent, often containing high amounts of DEET, that will keep most ticks away. Indoor treatments have a price point that is similar to other pest treatments. There is often more sweat equity in the cleaning of a home than there is in the cost of the pesticide that is sprayed to limit the tick infestation.
Preventing Ticks and Tick Repellent
Permethrin is recommended as a top tick repellent. A 0.5% solution of permethrin that is applied to clothing will actually survive the washing machine for several cycles. If you don’t want to apply this repellent yourself, then there are pre-treated clothing options for sale in most outdoor stores and online at Amazon that can provide the same tick repelling benefits.
To prevent ticks from biting, it is important to take a bath or shower immediately after coming indoors. Place the clothing into your washing machine immediately. This helps you to be able to detect any ticks that are crawling on you and remove them before they bite. Use a hand-held mirror to conduct a full body check. Make sure to check around the ears especially, in the belly button, and in the hair. If you have someone who can check your hair for you, the results may be better.
Since you’re not going to be putting your shoes or boots into the washing machine, visually inspect them for ticks once you return from outside. Ticks are resilient and can live for several days without attaching, so look at all items thoroughly.
As a final measure, any repellent for ticks should contain at least 30% DEET in it for it to be effective.
Natural Tick Repellent
If you don’t like the idea of repellents that could be hazardous, then there are some options that you can make at home. One of the most effective is a combination of geranium essential oil, almond oil, and aloe vera. Combine 40 drops of the essential oil with 4 tablespoons of the almond oil and 2 tablespoons of the aloe vera in a spray bottle. Lavender or peppermint oils can be used as well.
If the odor isn’t a problem for you, a more effective solution is to combine 2 parts water with 1 part apple cider vinegar with lavender or geranium oils. This combination is effective on clothing and for most pets, but you’ll want to keep essential oils away from cats.
Ticks don’t really like the acids in citrus fruits either, so in a pinch they can also make an effective repellent. Boil 2 grapefruit in 2 cups of water and allow the mixture to reduce on medium heat for about an hour. Strain the liquid and you’ll be able to keep those pests away.
A final natural option is neem oil. You’ve got to use this oil right away because it loses its effectiveness immediately, but when applied with a soap or pet-friendly detergent the results are pretty effective. This combination can be placed directly on your skin as well, but avoid the eyes and ears because they can become very irritated.
Knowing how to get rid of ticks often means preventing exposure, immediately removing ticks that are found, and seeking medical help when necessary. Use this guide to solve your tick problem and you can put your worries of Lyme disease and other tick problems to bed for good.