“Be sure to check your facts before stepping outside the next time so that you're always doing the most effective thing to protect yourself from tick bites.”
- Dr. Thomas Mather, Tick Expert, University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center
Avoid These Tick Myths
Everyone seems to know something about ticks, but often those things are just wrong enough to leave you at risk. We’re going to address and debunk five common tick myths so you know how to stay protected from ticks when you’re outdoors.
Tick Myth #1 - Ticks fall out of trees
One common myth is that ticks fall out of trees onto people's heads. While it's true that ticks live in wooded areas, they don't jump out of trees. Considering ticks don’t even have eyes, jumping out of a tree to latch onto a host would be extremely difficult for a tick to accomplish. Instead, they are attuned to the type of host they want to get on, which happen to be within the first few feet off the ground. They climb to the top of grass or bushes where they can more easily attach themselves to their host, such as a white-tailed deer.
Tick Myth #2 - All ticks carry diseases
Not all ticks carry diseases. The ones that carry disease-causing germs are those that, in their previous stage, fed on an animal that was infected and able to pass the germ on to the tick. Some types of ticks are more likely to be infected with the germs they carry than others, so the risk of disease transmission depends on the type of tick found biting you. If a tick has fed on an animal that has no germs, then the tick won’t have any germs to carry.
Tick Myth #3 - Ticks burrow all the way under the skin
When ticks bite humans, they don't burrow all the way under the skin. The tick's mouthpart or hypostome is the only thing that it can stick into the skin. Sometimes, the skin may become inflamed and seem to engulf the tick. Other times people scratch the body of the tick off, leaving just the head attached. Both of these make it appear as if the tick is all the way underskin when it most likely is not.
Tick Myth #4 - You will always have a rash
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone who is bitten by a tick will develop a rash. While a bullseye rash is characteristic of Lyme disease, it may not appear until several days after the tick has finished feeding. Some people may develop a mark at the bite site while the tick is still attached, but others may not notice any symptoms until much later. What happens after a tick bite is really dependent on your own body's reaction to that bite and if the tick has passed any germs to you.
Tick Myth #5 - DEET products are the best tick repellent
Many people believe that DEET products are the best at repelling ticks, but this is not entirely true. DEET is a good repellent for biting flies or mosquitoes, but it's not quite as effective at repelling ticks. This is due to the differences in how each insect finds their host. When applied to the skin, DEET can give ticks a hot foot sensation and cause them to fall off, but in order to keep that level of production against ticks, you would need to reapply this very often when outside. The most effective tick repellent is permethrin impregnated into your clothing. Permethrin-treated clothing provides optimum protection against ticks that may crawl on your clothes, and it's more long-lasting than DEET. To be extra cautious, you can always apply DEET to exposed skin alongside wearing permethrin-treated clothing.
By avoiding these common tick myths, you can better prepare yourself for tick season and reduce your risk of tick attachments. Make sure to always use good tick prevention methods, such as wearing permethrin-treated clothing and doing a tick check when you arrive home.