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Taking off ticks
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As you venture out into the garden this summer, you may find an unfriendly hitchhiker on your body. My dog Gretel has had four ticks on her this year. I've had two. Ticks are out in force looking for a fast food meal. You may fit the bill.

They attach to your body when you brush up against a plant on which the tick is sitting. They are really waiting for an animal to walk by, but you will taste just as good.

We have three common tick species in Rockdale County: the American dog tick, the lone star tick and the black-legged tick. These species can carry five diseases that affect humans - Lyme disease being the most commonly known.

Each disease has unique characteristics, but generally symptoms of tick-born diseases can occur anywhere from a few days to four weeks after being bitten and may include fever, rash, headache and muscle pain. Not everyone develops all of these symptoms, and some people develop symptoms like nausea, swollen lymph nodes, chills and weakness.

One question I commonly get is, "What is the best way to remove a tick?" There are many old wives' tales out there. The best way is to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible with tweezers. Pull the tick straight out slowly. You will be pulling it back the way it bit you, not straight up. Wash and treat the bite area with a disinfectant. I found a tick on me last week, and he came off very easily using this method. Gretel's came off just as easily. NEVER squeeze the tick, twist the tick, light the tick on fire (I have never understood this one. Why would you put a hot match on something that close to your body?), or cover the tick in petroleum jelly, nail polish or alcohol (I suppose to suffocate the tick). These "home remedies" may increase the chance of becoming infected with a disease. Not to mention, these methods commonly twist the tick's head off. While this may give you some satisfaction, people get infections when the tick's head is left in the skin.

Don't panic. Just because you were bitten by a tick does NOT mean you will get a disease. Note when you were bitten by the tick and follow up with a doctor if you do have symptoms. Cooperative Extension has a free publication on ticks and diseases. Stop by at the Extension office in the Parker Road Building and get one today.

Jule-Lynne Macie is the Rockdale County Extension Coordinator. She can be reached at 770-278-7373.