Did a tick just bite you? Get it off, but don’t toss it out just yet

Summer is great for hiking and walking trails, but while taking in the beauty of nature, attention should be given to a small hitchhiker whose bite can lead to a serious illness.

The weather has resulted in a huge population of ticks. And the trouble that could come with a bite depends on the species.

“We had a pretty moist winter this year — we think that that really boosts the tick’s survival,” said the Bug Guy Mike Raupp, an entomologist with the University of Maryland in College Park.

Raupp said in the D.C. area, there are predominantly three types of ticks, and each one can be a carrier of several types of tick-borne illness.

The black-legged tick, or deer tick, is the most concerning of the bunch, because its bite can result in Lyme disease, which if left untreated could affect the joints, the heart and even the nervous system.

Another tick which is common in this area is the American dog tick. This tick can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can be deadly if left untreated.

Finally, the lone star tick can carry the flu-like illness Ehrlichiosis, and can also cause Alpha-gal syndrome, which is an allergy to red meats.

Raupp said if someone finds a tick on them, getting it off quickly is key.

“If you can find those ticks and remove those ticks within the first 24 hours, the chances of receiving one of these tick-borne diseases goes down to near zero,” Raupp said.

To remove it, Raupp said take a set of forceps or tweezers and grab the tick as close to your skin as you can and slowly pull it out.

Once you do that, Raupp warns to not get rid of the tick — instead, get it identified and tested.

“We can either rule out or rule in important tick-borne diseases,” Raupp said.

The University of Maryland offers free testing to those who send the bugs to them. Follow the instructions on doing so on their website.

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Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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