The Kids' Page: Tick Talk

August, 2015

  Ixodes scapularis, the common deer tick. Photo: Macroscopic Solutions, CCDid you know that ticks have eight legs and are closely related to spiders? There are about 900 tick species split into two families based on the hardness of their bodies (700 hard-bodied vs. 200 soft-bodied).  

Ticks go through a metamorphosis that has three stages. Emerging from eggs as larvae, ticks grow into nymphs, and then finally transform into adults. They need to eat in order to develop into the next life stage. Ticks are ectoparasites, meaning they live on the outside skin of their host where they feed on blood.

There are several diseases transmitted to humans by ticks. The best known is Lyme disease. It’s important to check your body and hair for ticks after playing in the woods or tall grass. Since ticks can’t fly, they crawl up vegetation and wait to grab onto a host animal like a dog, cow, bird, or human. Tucking in your pant legs and wearing long sleeves helps to protect from tick bites.

If you happen to find a tick on you, don’t get scared. Have an adult firmly pinch the tick with tweezers close to your skin and pull it out. Keep the tick in a little jar of rubbing alcohol just in case you need to go to the doctor where they can identify the species. A fever, rash, or red ring around a tick bite is a sign to see your doctor. Ticks are hard to squish. If you find one on your shirt or pants simply flush it down the toilet or place in rubbing alcohol.

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