Chapel Hill, N.C. — Spending more time outdoors this summer increases the risk of bringing ticks home with you. Only a small percentage of the tiny bugs carry organisms that lead to disease, but in North Carolina, the dog tick poses a serious risk of spreading Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which can be fatal.
It takes 24 to 48 hours after the tick has attached to the body for it to transmit disease, so it's important to search for them after being outdoors, especially in tall grass or wooded areas.
Dog ticks can be as small as a poppy seed.
"They're hard to spot, and it helps if you have light clothes and you search for them carefully," said Dr. David Weber, an infectious disease expert at UNC Hospitals. "Specific spots you want to look are under the arms, around the groin, along the hair lines, in the hair. Both feel for them and look for them."
If you find a tick, pull it off gently and flush it down the toilet. If it's already attached, use tweezers – not your fingers.
If you develop a rash at the bite site or other symptoms, see a doctor.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can cause headache, fever, rash, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.