Know how to protect yourself from ticks

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 19, 2013

SALISBURY — Many people are concerned about Rocky Mountain spotted fever after the confirmed death of a Buncombe County child last month.
According to health officials, this is the first death in North Carolina due to the tick-borne illness since 2009. In 2012, there were 584 cases of the Rocky Mountain spotted fever, with the peak occurring in June and July. The American dog tick is the primary transmitter of the disease. The blacklegged tick is the primary transmitter of Lyme disease in North Carolina.
These are pests to animals and humans that must have a blood meal and can transmit diseases that can have serious consequences if not treated.
Many people want to use outdoor chemical treatments for tick management. Entomologists from N.C. State University reveal that ticks are often down on the soil, so the chemical application needs to cover the soil. A garden hose sprayer attachment or a granular insecticide work best to control the pest. Make sure the grass is not excessively wet; granules can get caught in the wet grass and will not reach the soil surface. Ticks in tall weeds or overgrown areas that remain untreated are also areas of potential trouble.
Below are some ways to avoid ticks and protect yourself when gardening and participating in outdoor activities:
• Stay on open paths for those who want to go hiking.
• Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to spot ticks.
• Tuck your pants legs into your socks when in areas that may be infested with ticks.
• Apply a repellent to your socks and pants, or, in the case of shorts, only to exposed parts of your skin.
• Check yourself, children and others carefully after working or playing outdoors.
• If you do find a tick that’s feeding on you, remove it carefully with a pair of tweezers. If possible, keep the tick for identification (keep it in a small jar filled with rubbing alcohol).
If you find a tick, it doesn’t mean it’s been feeding, particularly if it’s still wandering around. Ticks attach their heads to your skin with a type of “cement” and then feed.
If the tick is identified as an American dog tick or the blacklegged tick, it does not mean that it is actually one that is infected.
The best approach if you find an attached tick is to note the date on the calendar. If you should develop flu-like symptoms, severe headaches or joint pain within the next three to 14 days, contact your physician immediately and mention the tick incident.
Most doctors will take the cautious route and prescribe antibiotics, If these are taken early on, it usually takes care of the problem. Go to for more detailed information.
Darrell Blackwelder is county Extension director for Rowan County. 704-216-8970