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Tick season in Northeast Ohio: What is the difference between a deer tick and dog tick?

Cases of Lyme disease are rising in Ohio, so it’s worth doing daily tick checks, especially if you’ve been spending time outdoors near the woods.

CLEVELAND — Can you tell the difference between a deer tick and a dog tick? The deer tick is the one with the black legs and black shield on its back and it's also the one that spreads Lyme disease.

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But finding it can be difficult. It's about the size of a sesame seed. Only the females can spread Lyme disease even in the nymph stage.  

Remember your ABC’s. A is for awareness, B is for bug spray.

"Deet (active ingredient in many insect repellents) actually keeps these ticks from getting on our skin. They do not like deet. Deet is safe and can be applied to our skin and keeps the ticks away, and C is cover up," says Cleveland Clinic Internal Medicine and Geriatric specialist, Daniel Sullivan, MD.

Ticks can't get through clothing, which is why C for cover up is important. 

If you do find a deer tick crawling on you, it isn't a big deal, just get rid of it. However, if it is attached and is feeding on you, how long it's been there matters. After more than 36 hours, call your health care provider for treatment.

"A single dose of doxycycline can prevent that illness from becoming active," Dr. Sullivan said.

The unique rash is another warning sign.

"When they do bite and transmit illness, they will cause a red rash that has central clearing so it looks like a bullseye," Dr. Sullivan said.

But the rash can also appear in different ways. It may appear as a reddened area without an outer ring. And if you're feeling flu-like symptoms in the summer, such as fatigue, muscle or joint pain, headache, fever or chills and neck stiffness and you've been outdoors, get medical attention.

"Lyme disease early on can have these generalized symptoms that could possibly be flu similar and coronavirus similar," Dr. Sullivan said.

Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital Infectious Disease specialist, Amy Edwards, MD says cases of Lyme disease are rising in Ohio, so it’s worth doing daily tick checks, especially if you’ve been spending time outdoors near the woods, such as camping.

The problem with deer ticks, compared to dog ticks, is that they’re so small you rarely feel them. So you really need to look and have someone else check your back.

According to the CDC, remove any ticks with clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grab the tick as close as possible to the skin’s surface. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Twisting can cause the mouth parts of the tick to remain in the skin.  If this happens, remove them immediately with the tweezers.

Never crush a tick with your fingers. Put it in alcohol, place it in a sealed bag or flush it down the toilet.

Avoid the folklore remedies such as putting nail polish, petroleum jelly, or heat to remove the tick. You want it out as soon as possible and you don’t want to wait for it to detach itself.

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