10 myths about ticks debunked

By Jennifer Fabiano, AccuWeather staff writer

Children learn most of their knowledge about outdoor hazards like ticks from their parents. Unfortunately, misinformation can be passed from generation to generation, resulting in an ill-informed population about ticks.

From how to remove them to their dangers, there are 10 main misconceptions that people believe about ticks, according to the experts at Mosquito Squad. Read on to find truth behind these myths.



Myth #1: Ticks can get on you or your pets by falling out of or jumping off of trees.

Most people know that ticks can’t fly and won’t jump onto skin, but it is still very common to find ticks on exposed skin. Looking for bare skin, ticks attach themselves by latching onto a host as they brush past tall grass or low plants. Pants tucked into high socks are recommended to avoid contracting ticks.

Myth #2: There are many effective methods to remove a tick, including tape, matches, nail polish or even olive oil.

One must be extremely cautious when removing a tick from the skin. There are lots of ways people will suggest to remove ticks from the skin, but the best method is with a pair of clean, fine-tip tweezers.

Most important is that you don’t leave any part of the tick still attached. You should grasp the head of the tick with the tweezers, then pull straight up. Do not twist the tweezers or tick while removing it. Remove all parts of the tick from the skin and then sanitize the bite area.

Dispose of the tick in the toilet or keep it in Ziploc bag in the refrigerator if you want to have a medical professional look at it.

Myth #3: People should be more worried about mosquitoes over ticks in the United States.

It’s true that Lyme disease is less fatal than malaria, but an untreated case of Lyme disease can also affect a person for the rest of their life.

In 2016, there were 26,203 cases of Lyme disease confirmed within the United States. In the U.S., 1,700 cases of malaria are diagnosed each year.

While mosquitoes are responsible for over a thousand deaths in America each year, most cases of malaria in the U.S. are people who have traveled to the country from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Myth #4: All ticks carry Lyme disease.

Only deer ticks, or blacklegged ticks, carry Lyme disease. In addition, only one in four or five deer ticks carry Lyme disease. In most cases, an infected tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours to transmit the Lyme disease bacterium.

"While not all ticks carry Lyme disease, it’s a good rule of thumb to get checked out by a doctor if you find a tick on you," Amy Lawhorne, vice president of Mosquito Squad, said.

Myth #5: Lyme disease is difficult to treat.

Lyme disease is actually easily treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early enough. Early detection will limit the chances of a person being affected long-term.

Some patients will experience symptoms like severe fatigue, pain and aches after receiving treatment for Lyme disease, which physicians call post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS).

Only about 10 to 20 percent of people with Lyme disease will develop PTLDS, but the causes and treatments are still unknown.

Myth #6: Nymph ticks are harmless.

Nymph ticks, or baby ticks, are actually more likely to pass the most disease to their victims. Nymph ticks are so small that they are more easily missed than regular-sized ticks. Their small size increases the amount of time that they can go unnoticed on the skin, which increases the chance of them passing along Lyme disease.

Myth #7: Tick traps are not effective control methods.

Tick traps are tubes made of biodegradable material that contain treated cotton inside of them. The cotton is treated with tick-killing insecticide. When placed in an area with mice, they will collect the cotton for bedding. Not only are the traps safe for the mice, but they also effectively kill the tick.

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Myth #8: You will always feel a tick bite.

People are actually very unlikely to feel anything when a tick bites, which is why it’s very important to check your skin, and that of children and pets, after spending time outside.

When ticks bite skin, they release a mild anesthetic to hide their presence, which allows them to stay on your skin for an extended period of time without being noticed.

Myth #9: You only need to worry about ticks in the summer.

While people often think that ticks will die in the winter, many ticks actually just go dormant in the winter. A dormant tick can be a risk if the winter air warms up or is brought into your home while it’s still cold out.

"In the United States, most infections occur in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, North Central states and the West Coast, particularly the northern region of California," Lawhorne said. "In these areas, unseasonably warm winters can occur and ticks can be active when the ground temperature is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit."

Myth #10: Not everyone is at risk for tick bites and Lyme disease.

Anyone who spends time outside is at risk of being bitten by a tick; however, you can lower your risk of a tick bite by following a few precautions. By walking in the middle of trails, avoiding tall grass and staying out of leaf litter, you can decrease your chance of brushing and attracting a tick. If possible, covering feet, ankles and legs with clothing is another tactic to keep ticks from finding skin.

For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.

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