Did you know that vampires are real? No, not coffin-sleeping, garlic-fearing Dracula vampires, but there are creatures out there that "vant to suck your blood!" Steve Bender, better known as the Grumpy Gardener, gave us the lowdown on the creepy-crawly, real-life vampires—ticks. Ticks live by consuming the blood of both people and animals. Even scarier than the fact that a tiny critter is latched onto you and drinking your blood is the fact that ticks can transfer horrible diseases, too. Deer ticks can give people Lyme disease, and they’re so small that they could go undetected for a while. Other ticks can give you diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, too. Yikes!
So how can you avoid getting bitten by a tick? If you’re walking in the woods or along a trail, avoid brushing up against every leaf or bush you pass. It’s definitely a good idea to wear boots and long pants, and you can tuck your pants into your boots to ensure a tick won’t get on your skin. There are even pants made with insecticide for protection. We know the South is hot, but if you’re wearing shorts and you brush by a limb, a tick could latch onto your leg without you even realizing it—ew. Covering up your legs and arms is second nature for preventing ticks from getting on your skin, but the easiest place for a tick to hide is actually on your scalp, so wear a hat, too.
When you get home, do a body scan to be sure you don’t have any ticks on you. If you do find a tick, don’t panic. If you try to remove the tick too aggressively, you might break off its body and leave the head attached to your skin (really). You have to remove the tick gently, and one of the best ways is with a pair of fine tweezers. Grumpy says to “slowly, gently, and steadily pull with pressure until the tick releases from your body.” Once the tick is removed, don’t immediately throw it in the trash—put it in some sort of bottle or container like a Mason jar. If you have any issues from the tick, you can take it to the doctor to be treated appropriately. Be sure to put some rubbing alcohol on the bite and wash it with soap and water to prevent infection, too. It’s important to get the tick off as soon as possible because the longer the tick is attached to your skin, the more likely it is to transmit a disease. Getting the tick off within 24 hours of the bite will most likely prevent you from getting a disease from it.
Yuck! After all this talk about ticks, we might stay on the screened-in porch for awhile.