I grew up as a Girl Scout, so I know a thing or two about ticks. Or so I thought. Well, actually only 8 out of the top 12 most common misconceptions about ticks. And I learned that quite a few things I thought to be true were actually some of the more common myths about ticks and tick diseases.
I do a lot of day hiking in the Minnesota state parks. And we’ve seen an explosion in the tick population over the past couple of years especially. So was grateful when I was offered not only a complimentary pair of TickEase tick-removal tweezers, but also the opportunity to take the tick challenge.
This post contains recommended links to products and services. While you will not accrue any additional costs to support my blog, I may receive compensation if you purchase these products and services. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. All images taken by kmf are available for purchase via digital download.
Common misconceptions about ticks
So let’s see how you do when you take this all-you-need-to-know-about-ticks test it brought to you by TickEase tweezers. Please note that a version of this tick questionnaire was first published on gearjunkie.com (content and reprint permission provided to kmfiswriting from the marketing representatives of TickEase).
True or false: Test your knowledge about ticks
One of the most common tick-borne diseases is Lyme Disease, and was recently dubbed as one of the fastest growing diseases in the world. However, there are many other lesser-known illnesses caused by ticks such as borrelia, powassan virus, and alpha-gal syndrome.
Here are the top 12 misconceptions about ticks. Answer true or false – answers provided after the list.
- Ticks only bite in the summer.
- Ticks only live in wooded areas.
- You’re only at risk of deer tick diseases if you live near deer.
- Ticks can fly and jump from trees.
- You can feel a tick bite you.
- Ticks can smell blood.
- Ticks must remain attached to you for 24-36 hours to transmit a disease.
- Best way to remove a tick is with a match.
- A tick head burrowed under your skin can transmit disease after you remove the body.
- Dispose of an embedded tick by flushing it down the toilet.
Let’s check the answers and see how much you know about ticks.
1. Ticks only bite in the summer – False
What?! It’s true. I’ve seen reports of hikers finding ticks on the trails in February – and we live in Minnesota. It’s cold – like deathly cold sometimes. But doesn’t phase ticks. Cold weather does not kill them. Ticks are active year-round and found in all 50 states. Nymphal ticks are harder to see and are common in the spring and early summer.
2. Ticks only live in wooded areas – False
Ticks also hide in bushes, ground cover, and beach grass.
3. You’re only at risk of deer tick diseases if you live near deer – False
Deer are not the only hosts for deer ticks. Deer ticks feed on rodents, small mammals, birds, and reptiles. Ticks have been around for millions of years and have infected many food sources.
4. Ticks can fly and jump from trees – False
No, ticks do not jump or fly. But they are good climbers and hide in bark.
5. You can feel a tick bite you – False
You will not feel a thing when a tick bites you. That’s because they secrete a numbing agent before they bite. Fewer than 50 percent of Lyme disease patients recall being bitten.
6. Ticks can smell blood – False
Ticks don’t smell blood, but they can detect carbon dioxide, ammonia in sweat, and heat from potential hosts. And that includes your breath.
7. Ticks must remain attached to you for 24-36 hours to transmit a disease – True and False
Kind of a trick tick question. The length of time a tick needs to stay attached to transmit a disease depends on the tick species, tick life stage and how the host (you) respond to the bite. But these time ranges are estimates (and the deadly Powassan virus can be transmitted within minutes). Remove ticks as quickly as possible (see below for instructions).
8. The best way to remove a tick is with a match – False
This is the tick-removal method I grew up with that we thought was best. And must admit that is how I removed the tick I found on my leg last year. However, this tick-removal method is frowned upon because it is potentially dangerous and painful.
Agitating the tick can put you at a higher risk of exposure. Other popular myths (and many I learned growing up) on how to remove ticks include smothering it with oil, butter, nail polish, nail polish remover, dish detergent, Vaseline, alcohol, or aftershave. Just like matches, these options can cause burning.
9. A tick head burrowed under your skin can transmit disease after you remove the body – False
Ticks don’t have heads.
[Insert mind-blowing emoji here.]
This is one of the four that I got wrong about tick-removal tips. Ticks don’t have heads? I’m still having a hard time getting my head wrapped around that one. Apparently, ticks have barbed mouth parts that can remain in the skin if the entire tick is not removed. This can cause skin inflammation or an infection.
10. Dispose of an embedded tick by flushing it down the toilet – False
I’m guilty of this one. I want to get rid of the tick right away. But experts advise against getting rid of this pest. They recommend that you save the tick so it can be tested if needed. Many states offer free tick-testing services. It is best to save the tick and so it can tested if needed.
I also read that they recommend putting the tick in a freezer bag and placing it into the freezer in the event you need to get the tick tested for diseases. They can then determine the type of tick that bit you and identify any pathogens or parasites the tick is carrying.
11. If you get Lyme disease from a tick, a bullseye rash will appear – False
This was a revelation for me as I thought a bullseye rash was the only sign. Less than 50% of Lyme disease patients report a bullseye rash or any rash at all. Rashes related to Lyme disease can look blotchy, spotted, red, or pink, for example.
12. If your blood test is negative, you have not been infected – False
You won’t find any reliable blood tests for tick-borne diseases. That’s why it’s so important to check for ticks and remove them promptly.
Dan Wolff (aka Tick Man Dan) of Waltham, Massachusetts, is the founder and president of TickEase Inc. and the author of this tick test, which a version was first published on gearjunkie.com (content and reprint permission provided to kmfiswriting from the marketing representatives of TickEase). Tick Man Dan is an expert and educator about tick behavior, anatomy, and life cycle, as well as how to check for and remove embedded ticks.
Sources: gearjunkie.com – tick myths and facts and lymediseaseresource.com
How to prevent tick bites
While it’s important to be aware of ticks and the diseases they carry, don’t let that deter you from the joy the outdoors bring. I mean, I found a tick on my arm once after weeding my garden. And as you learned above, ticks hang out at the beach also.
And not all ticks carry diseases. However, it’s advised before venturing outdoors to protect yourself with an insect and tick repellent that contains picaridin. EPA says with normal use, it’s not considered a health hazard. Unlike DEET, picaridin doesn’t smell bad, it’s not oily, and doesn’t damage materials like plastic.
When I know I’m going to be in an area known to have a huge tick population, I always wear long leggings (even if it’s 95 degrees with high humidity / dew point. I tuck them inside my socks and spray picaridin around the tops of my socks and where my leggings meet, my waistband, and inside my hat. I also soray my backpack and when camping, i spray the exterior of my tent.
Hiker tip: Some hikers wrap the bottom of their leggings and top of their socks with masking tape (sticky-side out). They tend to trap ticks before finding their way to the host.
I also (now) stay in the middle of the trails as best I can to avoid touching branches where those ticks are just waiting to hitchhike home.
That happened to me last year – and it was April and the trees hadn’t even started budding yet. But I found a tick once I got home – nearly 3 hours later. And I hadn’t even felt it.
It’s so important to remove all clothing when you get home and thoroughly check yourself after hiking. And then take a shower. If you do find a tick on you, that’s where the TickEase tweezers come in handy. Follow the CDC tick removal guidelines using tweezers for quick, easy and safe with tick removal.
The risk of a tick-borne disease greatly reduces if you remove the tick right away. Deer ticks, which carry Lyme disease, typically transmit the disease if attached for one to two days. Don’t panic if you find a tick on you. Not all ticks carry diseases.
Get detailed information, illustrations, and videos about how to check yourself, your family, and your pets for ticks, and how to remove them correctly, at TickEase.com.