Cold Weather Doesn’t Mean Ticks Won’t Bite

Ticks are a problem year round! Don’t be fooled into thinking that you won’t get bitten in the winter, or that ticks can’t survive the cold. That will give you a false sense of security and could ultimately put your health at risk. In order to avoid being bitten by a tick, and possibly contracting Lyme disease, it is important to be vigilant all year round.

How Do Ticks Survive the Winter?

Most tick cases are reported during the summer or fall as this is when people are out and about enjoying nature, rather than because the ticks are only active at this time of year. Depending on the species, and stage of the tick’s life, they will survive the cold months by becoming dormant, and hiding in leafy or wooded areas, or latching on to a warm-blooded host, like a deer, dog or person. Even snow doesn’t kill ticks. When the snow begins to fall, ticks bury themselves in leafy debris or any other snug place they can find, like a woodpile or the fur of an animal.

Which tick species are most active in the winter?

All ticks can be active in the winter, but most American dog ticks and lone star ticks are not commonly active during cold spells. Black-legged (deer) ticks and the winter tick, found most commonly on moose, however, remain active throughout the year.  

Always check yourself for ticks

Since tick species are active at all times of the year, it is best to do a thorough tick check of yourself, and your pets, after any outdoor activity. Deer ticks could look like freckles on your skin so look closely. The best way to stop ticks attaching themselves to your skin is to wear protective clothing while hiking, gardening or doing outdoor activities. You should also apply insect and tick repellent.

Check for ticks on your dogs and other pets

During an hour-long walk, ten to fifteen ticks can easily attach themselves to your dog. This means it is very important to check your dogs for ticks regularly and keep them on tick medication, especially if they spend a lot of time outdoors.

Important information about deer ticks;

  • Deer ticks have a shell-like exterior and bury their heads in their hosts
  • An infected deer tick can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease through their saliva.
  • If a tick attaches itself to your skin, you must remove it immediately using a tick remover tool.
  • You have approximately 24 – 48 hours to remove a deer tick before the transmission of Lyme disease occurs.
  • Not all deer ticks carry Lyme disease but if you have been bitten, consult a doctor immediately and get tested for Lyme disease.

Know the early symptoms of Lyme Disease

  • The first sign of Lyme disease is a rash that can appear anywhere from three days to a month after you’ve been bitten by a tick. The rash might be warm to the touch but it’s usually not painful or itchy.
  • Besides a rash, the early symptoms are similar to flu and can include chills and a fever. Fatigue is another symptom of Lyme disease, as are swollen lymph nodes.
  • A severe headache, combined with a stiff neck or aching muscles throughout the body, are also indicators of Lyme disease.
  • As the disease progresses, you can experience numbness, weakness or tingling in the arms, legs, feet, and hands.
  • If untreated, other symptoms will occur as the disease progresses.
  • Since many people believe that ticks are not active in winter, their symptoms are often misdiagnosed but if you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to consult a doctor.  

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