Ticks are small arachnids closely related to spiders, scorpions and mites. Ticks are ectoparasites (external parasites), living on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. Ticks are vectors of a number of diseases, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Several tick species are common to New Jersey including the Brown Dog tick, Lone Star tick and Black-Legged, or Deer tick. Flat with eight legs and no antennae, ticks are not insects but members of the arachnid family like spiders. Brown to dark red in color, ticks are small, about 1/8 inch, quadrupling their size as they engorge on blood from their hosts. Found in wooded and tall-grassy areas, ticks can transmit dangerous diseases. The best defense is prevention. When walking through woods or fields, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. DEET-based repellent is an effective preventative.
To remove a tick embedded in your skin, do not grasp and try to pull the tick out by its abdomen. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick by its head next to the skin. Slowly pull backwards, giving the tick time to disengage its mouth so it does not detach inside the skin. Disinfect the bite site and apply a topical antibiotic. Save the tick in a tightly sealed container and bring it to your physician for an inspection for Lyme Disease.
Lyme Disease is a serious bacterial infection transmitted by deer ticks and characterized by a telltale bull's-eye rash. Symptoms can include rash, fever, chills, body aches, joint swelling, weakness and temporary paralysis. Heart, brain and nerve problems can also develop. When promptly treated with antibiotics in its early stages, most people recover completely from Lyme Disease. Some patients however, experience debilitating symptoms long after the infection is gone.