Ticks grow bigger and their body changes color as they feed, but their scutum remains the same.
Current Tick Activity
Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)
I was bitten by a tick recently and now there is a big red spot. Should I be worried?
It depends on how recently. Within 3 days of being bitten by a tick, many people will develop a red spot that never expands to bigger than a dime. This is just an allergic reaction to the saliva that the tick is spitting into you. Watch the site, however. If the red spot grows in size over a period of a week or so, to bigger than two inches, then it is likely to be a sign that you are infected with the Lyme disease agent.
Is there a lab that I can send a tick to to see if it was carrying Lyme disease prior to treating myself with the long series of antibiotics?
Today I pulled out a Dog tick out of my scalp. Can this type of tick transfer any disease?
American dog ticks can be infected with Rocky Mtn Spotted Fever rickettsia, other less pathogenic rickettsia, Colorado Tick Fever virus, and rarely, with the agent of tularemia. However, in your geographic area, the dog tick infection rate is quite low for Rocky Mtn Spotted Fever and the other pathogens are not known to circulate there either. Hopefully, the only concern is a bit of a tick bite.
When a tick bites how long does it stay attached?
The length of time a tick stays attached depends on the tick species, tick life stage and the host immunity. It also depends on whether you do a daily tick check. Generally if undisturbed, larvae remain attached and feeding for about 3 days, nymphs for 3-4 days, and adult females for 7-10 days. Deer ticks feed a day or so faster than Lone Star ticks and American dog ticks. You might be interested in our tick growth comparison pictures; ticks change their appearance pretty dramatically as they feed which can make identifying them challenging.
Can I get Lyme disease from any tick bite?
First off, you can only get Lyme disease if a tick that is a carrier of the disease-causing microbe bites you. Second, Blacklegged (deer) ticks are the most common type of tick transmitting the Lyme disease bacterium from host to host. In most places in the Northeastern U.S., as many as 20% of Blacklegged tick nymphs and 50% of adult females are infected. If you are bitten by a tick, remove it right away, then identify it. You can have it tested for infection to better assess your risk. Blacklegged ticks attached for less than 24 hrs are not likely to have transmitted any infection.
Can I still get Lyme disease once there is frost?
Most people think that bloodsuckers like mosquitoes and ticks disappear along with the risk for disease transmission once there is a frost and the weather turns cooler. That's true for mosquitoes; they either die, or some species go into a feeding diapause. Some ticks also go into a feeding diapause in the autumn, but not deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis) - they are a different type of bug! The adult stage deer tick actually begins its feeding activity about the time of first frost (or early October throughout its range), and it will latch onto any larger host (cat to human) any day that the temperature is near or above freezing.
Do ticks drop on you from trees?
No! Ticks don't fly, hop, run, or even move all that quickly. Depending on the life stage and species, they quest for hosts anywhere from ground level to about knee-high on vegetation, and then tend to crawl up to find a place to bite.
What are the best preventive measures against ticks when preparing for a weekend hike through the woods?
We used to tell people to use DEET repellents, tuck your pants into your socks, walk in the center of the trail, and to do a thorough tick check when you get home. Although those strategies can help reduce the risk of tick bites and disease, people didn't like the feel of repellents on skin, or the look of long pants tucked into socks. Moreover, the poppy-seed sized nymphal deer ticks were hard to find.
We now encourage people to plan a little bit ahead--treat shoes, socks, shorts/pants, and shirt with PERMETHRIN tick repellent the day before going on the hike. Let it dry onto the fabric (takes about an hour or two), then go out and have fun! It is still good to practice walking down the center of the trail, and try to remember to do a tick check when you get home, but if you are wearing clothes treated with PERMETHRIN tick repellent, there is a [much reduced likelihood] that a tick will be able to bite - even if you are wearing shorts! More good news - your treated clothes are ready to protect you the next time you venture into tick country, whether it is on a hike or just playing/working around the yard (note: at-home treated clothes can be washed up to 6 times, while Insect Shield clothes are still effective after 70 washes).
I don't feel comfortable wearing permethrin treated clothing or DEET every time I venture outside. Is there any evidence to support the use of such products?
To help ease your concern regarding tick repellent clothing, take a look at another TickEncounter application (Should I Wear Tick Repellent Clothing?) to better appreciate the margin of safety you have. TickEncounter has not done extensive testing with the variety of natural repellents flooding the market but there are some credible reports that a few compounds (such as nookatone) may be somewhat effective in repelling. Unfortunately, that compound is not yet available in product form. You should know that product claims of tick repellency usually are largely based on studies done in petri dishes in the lab. Few of these products have ever been evaluated under field conditions with real tick encounters.
Why do some bites hurt and others don’t?
Pain perception is a complicated neurologic phenomenon but we know that pain hypersensitivity does accompany tissue inflammation, and bites and stings from various insects and ticks do trigger tissue inflammation to varying degrees. Some biting bugs have potent molecules in their saliva to help mask pain while others don’t bother. For example, ticks need to remain attached to hosts for days in order to steal blood for growth and reproduction. If the host felt pain, it would likely take action to remove the cause of pain and in doing so, prevent the tick from stealing enough blood to survive. Tick saliva contains potent painkillers called kininases -- enzymes that breakdown pain-mediating peptides in inflamed tissue called bradykinin. Other blood suckers like mosquitoes lack these pain-reducing enzymes since their blood feeding strategy is more ‘quick in and quick out’. Besides, if they did elicit pain and get shoo’d away, unlike ticks they’ve got wings to fly off to a different host. This is just one example of why some bites hurt while others go unnoticed.
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