North Carolina often reports the highest number of people with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever(RMSF) in the United States. Other tick-borne illnesses found in North Carolina include:
These diseases can become severe and cause long-term health problems if not treated early.
Ticks are found all year in North Carolina, but people are more likely to be bitten in late spring, summer and fall.
Places Ticks Like to Live and Feed
People usually get ticks after being outdoors in places where ticks like to live, which include:
- Tall grasses
- Brushy areas
- Deep woods
- Leaf litter
Pets that spend time outdoors can also bring them into your home.
Ticks will often crawl to warm, moist places on the body like the groin (between the legs), neck, behind the ears, under the arms and behind the knees - any place skin folds. They attach themselves to the body to feed. This is when they can spread disease. Ticks usually have to be attached more than 24 hours before they can transmit disease. Remove ticks right away to reduce the chance of getting sick from a tick.
How to Remove a Tick
- Use tweezers to firmly grasp the tick close to the skin.
- Pull the tick upward slowly and steadily.
- Throw the tick away. There is not a lab in this area that will test ticks for disease.
- Disinfect the bite area and tweezers with rubbing alcohol. Wash hands with soap and water.
- Write the date you removed the tick on your calendar and watch for symptoms (see below) over the next 30 days.
Don't use petroleum jelly, nail polish or hot matches to remove a tick.
Common Symptoms of Tick Borne-Illnesses in North Carolina
Not all ticks carry disease and not all tick bites will make you sick. If you get flu-like symptoms or a rash in the month after a tick bite, see your doctor and let him know you were bitten by a tick. Symptoms common to tick diseases in North Carolina are:
- Muscle aches
- Sometimes nausea and vomiting
Sometimes a spotted rash or a large “bulls’ eye” rash around the bite.
Some long-term symptoms include:
- Joint pain or swelling
- Death, rarely
Diseases caused by ticks can be treated with antibiotics. Early treatment can help shorten the length and severity of illness.
How to Avoid Getting Sick from a Tick
- Do a tick check. Check skin and clothing for ticks every day and more often if you are in places where ticks like to live.
- Check children and pets for ticks every day when they come inside.
- Take a shower or bath after spending time outdoors. This will help keep ticks from attaching and give you a chance to check your whole body for ticks.
- Remove attached ticks right away! Make a note on your calendar when you remove an attached tick. If you feel sick within 30 days, tell your doctor you had a tick bite and what your symptoms are.
- Use insect repellents that contain DEET on skin and permethrin on clothing. Follow product directions.
- Wear light-colored clothing when going to areas where ticks like to live, so ticks will be easier to see. Wear a long-sleeved shirt tucked into long pants. Tuck long pants into socks.
- Walk on paths. Avoid tall grasses, brushy areas, deep woods and leaf litter.
- Treat pets that spend time outdoors for ticks. There are tick repellents especially made for pets. Follow product directions.
- Create a tick-safe zone in your yard.
- Go to the doctor if you feel sick within 30 days of spending time in an area where ticks like to live, even if you don’t remember having a tick bite.