(WGHP) — Ticks are definitely the least fun part of summer.
Hiking, trips to the park or even just sitting outside and enjoying your own garden can have an edge of danger to them during the peak season for the little bloodsuckers.
Ticks aren’t just gross and annoying, they can cause serious diseases for humans and pets.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease are the two that come to mind.
According to the CDC’s Tick Bite Tracker, tick bites begin to spike in April and are at their peak in May. So enjoying those May flowers comes with a healthy dose of checking for nasties!
Here in North Carolina, there are four species of ticks that you have to be aware of.
The American dog tick
The American dog tick is a common tick that lives along woodland trails and other shrubby habits. It is not a carrier of Lyme disease, but it can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. In its adult stage, it prefers to bite dogs and humans.
This tick is not active during winter.
The brown dog tick
These ticks rarely bother people and exclusively feed on dogs. The females sometimes lay eggs in cracks and crevices of dog kennels or in building foundations. If not cleaned properly, that can cause the population to spike out of control.
This tick can be found in North Carolina year-round.
The lone star tick
The lone star tick primarily resides in the coastal plain but can be found as far west as the Piedmont Triad. It inhabits similar habitats as the American dog tick. It readily feeds on humans and large mammals in all phases of life. These ticks can cause a rash similar to a rash found with Lyme disease, though they are not caused by the same organism. They can, however, cause an Alpha-gal allergy, which is an allergy to mammal meat. Find out more about Alpha-gal on the CDC website.
This tick is most commonly found in the summer months, though they can be seen in a larval stage in the fall.
The black-legged tick
The black-legged tick is active in late fall and early spring and will feed on a variety of small to large-sized mammals. They are a vector for Lyme disease.
While the threat of Lyme disease is only found in the black-legged tick, which prefer spring and fall temperatures to summer, that doesn’t mean that the threat of disease is any less.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is not hugely common in American dog ticks but is very harmful to people and domestic dogs. It can be treated with antibiotics, but if left untreated it can sometimes cause death.
In addition to Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Alpha-gal allergy, ticks can also spread ehrlichiosis. This is primarily carried by lone star ticks, and the symptoms are similar to Rocky Mountain spotty fever.
How to avoid ticks?
Try to avoid overgrown, weeded areas. If you can layer your clothing and tuck your pants into your socks. Wearing light-colored clothing can make ticks easier to see before they get onto your skin.
Insect repellents are effective against ticks and should be applied liberally.
Trying to avoid tick-infested areas while picking a campsite? Use a piece of white fabric and brush it across the ground. If you get ticks on the fabric, pick a new place.
Checking yourself frequently for ticks is key to preventing tick-borne illness. A tick must be attached for at least six hours to transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and at least 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease, so checking yourself after any time spent in an environment that could have ticks is key to avoiding illness.
It’s also good to frequently check your pets for ticks, as well, because ticks can make them sick too.
Keep them out of your yard!
Keep your yard mowed and free of leaf litter and you can avoid creating a prime environment for ticks. For large-scale infestations, pesticides can be used to cut down on the tick population. Be mindful of your use of pesticides and follow the instructions exactly.
Don’t let bitey little bugs ruin your summer, be aware of the threat of ticks. With the right preparations, they won’t be a problem for you or your family.