Ticks are part of the arachnid family, which includes spiders and scorpions. They do not fly or jump but use their legs to attach to the skin of an animal or person to feed on blood. Most ticks go through 4 life stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph, and adult. After hatching from eggs, ticks must eat blood at every stage to survive.
What ticks live in New York City and what diseases do they transmit?
(a.) Blacklegged Tick
(b.) Lone Star Tick
(c.) American Dog Tick
(a.) Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are about the size of a poppy or sesame seed and commonly occur in the northeastern and upper midwestern United States. They can transmit a number of diseases including lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and tick paralysis. While blacklegged ticks are not widespread in NYC, some have been recently collected from Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx; Clay Pit Ponds, High Rock and Wolfe's Pond Parks in Staten Island; and Alley Pond Park, Highland Park and Floyd Bennett Field in Queens and Brooklyn. Some of the ticks from Pelham Bay and Clay Pit Ponds Parks tested positive for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. They are abundant throughout Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties and many counties in upstate New York.
(b.) Lone star ticks are about 1/4" long and are rarely seen in New York City. They can transmit ehrlichiosis, tick paralysis, and Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness (STARI).
(c.) American dog ticks can be up to 1/2" long and are common in New York City. They transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tick paralysis.
How can I prevent tick bites?
When traveling or staying in tick habitats like tall grass, overgrown brush, etc., particularly during warmer months when ticks are more active, use the following guidelines:
- Wear light colored clothing while entering tick habitats, as it will be easier to notice ticks on your clothing;
- Tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants to prevent any ticks from attaching to your skin.
- Tie hair up or wear a hat while entering a tick habitat.
- Wear gloves while gardening because ticks generally live under the soil and in leaf litter.
- Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. Damp clothes may need more time.
- Hot water is recommended for washing clothes to kill ticks. If hot water cannot be used, tumble dry on low heat for 70 minutes or high heat for 40 minutes.
- Use insect repellant containing DEET. Repellents containing picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus are also known to be effective. For more information visit the EPA website on repellents.
- Permethrin products can be applied to clothing/boots (not to skin), actually kill ticks that come in contact with the treated clothing, and usually stay effective through several washings.
- Use flea and tick repellents on your pet. Speak to your veterinarian for guidance on appropriate products.
- When outdoors, check for ticks on yourself, children, and pets upon returning from outdoors in tick-infested areas.
- Look for ticks in all joint areas, the navel, behind ears, behind knees, between the legs, around the waist, in the hairline, and in other skin folds.
- Wash all skin treated with insect repellent thoroughly.
- Showering within two hours of coming indoors can also help wash off ticks and make finding crawling ticks easier.
Around the Home
- Keep your lawn mowed, cut overgrown brush, and remove leaf litter to reduce tick populations.
- When mowing the lawn, wear a hat, long pants, and shoes. Adult ticks crawl up branches and grass to grab onto a passing host.
How do ticks transmit diseases?
Ticks transmit diseases while feeding on blood. The infection process begins when a tick takes a blood meal from an animal with a reservoir ofinfected with a pathogens. After feeding, the tick can picks up theose pathogens and is capable of injecting them it into the blood stream of its next host.
What is tick paralysis and what are its symptoms?
Tick paralysis occurs when an engorged and egg-bearing female tick produces a neurotoxin in her salivary glands while attached to the host. Symptoms are mostly found among young children. The symptoms of tick paralysis include fatigue and numbness in the arms and legs. As time progresses, paralysis of the arms and legs occurs, followed by paralysis of the tongue and face. More severe symptoms include convulsions and failure to breathe. Once the tick is removed, symptoms will vanish almost immediately.
What is the treatment for tick paralysis?
The only treatment for tick paralysis is to remove the tick. If symptoms persist, contact a physician immediately. If possible, keep the tick and bring it to the physician for proper identification.
What is the best way to remove a tick?
If a tick is crawling on you, remove the tick and discard immediately. If the tick is embedded in the skin, watch this video to see how to remove it and follow these steps:
- Using a pair of tweezers, grab a hold of the tick at the point where it is closest to the skin (this is the head of the tick). Do not grab the body of the tick , as separating it from embedded mouthparts of the head may cause secondary infection.
- Gently and carefully, pull up on the tick with slow, even pressure to gradually ease out the mouthparts.
- If tweezers are not available, use fingers shielded with tissue paper or rubber gloves. Do not handle ticks with bare hands.
- After removing the tick, wash the areas and your hands with alcohol or soap and water.
- Do not use petroleum jelly, nail polish remover, or heat to remove the tick since these methods may increase the risk of infection with a tick-borne disease.
- Do not squash or squeeze the tick during removal.
- If possible, place the tick in alcohol or in a plastic zip lock bag and store in the freezer for identification. If your physician suspects a tick-borne disease he/she may ask to see the tick.
- Contact your medical provider immediately if you go on to develop any signs or symptoms of a tick-borne disease.
More Tick Prevention Resources