Tick Season Is Here

— Written By and last updated by Nancie Mandeville
en Español

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photo of tick next to penny for size comparison

Ticks are most active between April – September. When seeking a blood meal, ticks crawl up onto grass or shrubs where they attach themselves to an animal as it passes by. Once a tick is on a host, it crawls upward in search of a place on the skin where it can attach to take a blood meal. The tick’s mouthparts are barbed, making it difficult to remove the tick from the skin.

The most common ticks encountered in North Carolina are American dog tick, brown dog tick, Lone star tick, and Black-legged tick (often called the deer tick). Both the Lone star tick and the American dog tick are potential carriers of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The Black-legged tick is a potential vector of Lyme disease. Both the Lone star tick and the Black-legged tick can transmit ehrlichiosis. The brown dog tick feeds mostly on dogs and is rarely found on humans.

Take the following steps to protect yourself from ticks:

  • If possible, avoid tick-infested areas such as tall grass and dense vegetation
  • Walk in the center of trails and avoid brushing against weeds and tall grass
  • Keep grass and underbrush cut and thinned
  • Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can be found easily
  • Tuck pant legs into socks and shirts into pants so ticks stay on the outside of clothing
  • Conduct tick checks on children, pets, yourself
  • Use tick repellents such as Deet on skin or clothes or Permethrin on clothing only
  • Ask your veterinarian to recommend tick controls for your pets

Ticks are best removed by using tweezers and grasping the tick at the point where it is attached to the skin. Do not twist or jerk, pull slowly to avoid leaving the mouthparts in the wound. Do not use nail polish, petroleum jelly, alcohol, or hot matches to remove the tick. Wash the area with an antiseptic after the tick is removed. Kill the tick in rubbing alcohol and keep it in a small vial in case any disease symptoms develop. In any case of suspected tick-transmitted disease, consult with a physician.