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Myths about ticks

Don't believe the old wives tales
Image courtesy of University of Minnesota

A walk through the woods or even playing in the yard could expose you to ticks. They can be harmful, but it’s important to understand the facts – and the myths about them in order to protect yourself.

Dr. Michael Dryden is a University distinguished professor of veterinary parasitology at Kansas State University, and one of the world’s leading experts on ticks. He says the most common myth is that they fall onto our heads out of trees. But in reality, ticks hang out in grasses and low shrubs. When you walk by, they ambush you and rapidly crawl up your body.

"And the first piece of bare skin they hit is right above your collar. So you feel that and you reach back and you grab at it, and this tick’s on the base of your neck, by your ear or your hairline, and you look up. It’s a natural thing that we do" says Dryden. "But there is just absolutely no indication, no evidence at all that these ticks are falling out of trees."

Another common myth is that all ticks carry Lyme disease. Dryden says it depends on where you are and the tick population, but in most areas only a small percentage of ticks carry Lyme disease or other pathogens.

However, he also notes that if you find one on you, it has to be removed. And there are plenty of old wives tails on how to do it.

"There was a study actually done back in the 1980’s looking at these various tick removal methods, such as using Vaseline, literally even a lit match was actually done. None of those hold any real credence, they’re not effective, they’re really common myths," says Dryden. "The best way to remove a tick is basically if you have access to a pair of tweezers. Grab that tick as close to the skin as possible, and then pull it straight out."

Most people say that the tick’s head has to come out. Dryden says if you can’t remove it don’t fret.  The worst thing that will happen is that the area will develop a small welt.

Learn more:

Tick myths vs facts

All the information you could want about ticks from tickencounter.org

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