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Photo by Gary Alpert, Harvard University, www.bugwood.com.

An American dog tick.

Working in landscaping, forestry or brush clearing can be risky because of exposure to ticks. The most frequently encountered ticks are the American dog tick and the ground hog tick. They can be found on various mammals including ground hogs, raccoons, dogs and humans. Deer ticks and western black-legged ticks are much smaller than common dog and cattle ticks. When ticks feed on animals, they can acquire diseases including Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Then, ticks can pass the disease on to humans. Often, emergency help should be sought right away. Workers who are bitten should identify the tick to help doctors diagnose the trouble.

Lyme Disease Symptoms

  • Bulls-eye rash: Looks like a bulls eye, with a reddish outer ring and a pale center. Warm to the touch, usually more than 2 inches in diameter. Occurs in 75 percent of those infected with Lyme disease.
  • Fever
  • Lymph node swelling
  • Neck stiffness
  • Generalized fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Migrating joint aches
  • Muscle aches

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Symptoms

  • Initial symptoms may include: fever, nausea, vomiting, severe headache, muscle pain, lack of appetite.
  • Later signs and symptoms include: rash, abdominal pain, joint pain, diarrhea.

The three classic symptoms are fever, rash and history of tick bite.

Preventing tick bites

  • Stay out of brushy, overgrown grass and wooded habitats, especially in spring and early summer.
  • Remove leaves, tall grass and brush from work areas. This will reduce tick, deer and rodent habitat.
  • Apply tick-toxic chemicals to work areas to help control the tick population.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so ticks may be more easily seen and removed before attaching.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots.
  • Wear high boots or enclosed shoes that cover the entire foot.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Spray insect repellant on exposed skin, excluding the face.
  • Shower and wash and dry clothes at a high temperature after outdoor exposure.
  • Check your whole body for ticks, especially armpits, groin and pubic areas.
  • If a tick is found, remove it with tweezers and clean the area with an antiseptic.

Removing ticks

A tick usually doesn’t bite until it has been attached to your body for 24 hours. So, if a tick should become attached to you, remove it as soon as possible:

  • Use tweezers to pull the tick straight away from the skin.
  • Grasp the tick by the head with the tweezers.
  • Do not twist or jerk ticks, as mouth parts may be left in the skin.
  • Do not use a hot match or cigarette to remove a tick. This may cause the tick to burst.
  • Avoid touching ticks with bare hands.
  • After removing a tick, carefully disinfect the bite site. Wash hands with soap and water.

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.