Think you know all there is to know about ticks, those little creatures that spread Lyme disease and other illnesses? You might be surprised at how much misinformation is out there.

1. Myth: Deer are the host for all ticks.
Fact: The black-legged tick, or "deer tick," does commonly attach itself to deer in certain regions, such as the East Coast and Upper Midwest. In other locales, different types of ticks prefer to feed on dogs, birds, and other small mammals.

2. Myth: If you're bitten by a tick, you'll definitely get Lyme disease.
Fact: Lyme disease is found primarily in states in the Northeast, along the Eastern Seaboard, and the Upper Midwest. However, not all ticks—not even the majority of them—are infected with Lyme disease. Furthermore, experts say ticks need to be attached for a period of about 36 hours before they transmit the bacteria to humans.

3. Myth: Lyme disease is the only thing you have to worry about if bitten by a tick.
Fact: Lyme disease may make the headlines, but there are numerous other diseases that can be contracted from a tick bite. Anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis can be transmitted by themselves or along with Lyme disease. These diseases tend to be less common than Lyme, but they can also be more dangerous.

4. Myth: Ticks jump off of deer and onto humans.
Fact: Ticks cannot jump or fly. They wait, front legs outstretched, on blades of grass and leaves for a host to come by. They find their hosts by smelling body odors and breath, sensing body heat, and feeling vibrations. Once on you, a tick will tend to crawl a bit, looking for a place to attach. They are often found on the scalp, ear, and even groin.

5. Myth: You can remove ticks from your skin by applying a hot match or petroleum jelly.
Fact: Matches, nail polish, alcohol and other methods are likely to cause more harm to you than the tick. The best way to remove a tick is by using tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin as you can, in order to ensure that you catch the head and mouth, says Steven Wright, a microbiologist at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. "When pulling the tick out, one should pull slowly and avoid jerking on the tick since that increases the likelihood of leaving the mouthparts in the individual," says Wright.

6. Myth: You can't possibly know if a tick carries disease.
Fact: There's no way to tell if a tick carries Lyme or other diseases by looking at it, but if you save it in a closed container and mail it to a tick testing center, you can learn whether the tick carries any infectious bacteria. Check with your doctor or health department to find out where to send it.

7. Myth: You'll know you have Lyme disease or another tick-borne illness because you'll develop a bull's-eye rash.
Fact: Not everyone develops a telltale rash. In fact, many people (especially adults) do not. Other symptoms that indicate tick-borne disease include fever, fatigue, swollen lymph glands, loss of appetite, painful joints, and—in later stages—neurological and cardiac problems.

Steven Wright, PhD, reviewed this article.




"Ticks," Centers for Disease Control, accessed July 11, 2013.

"Tick Myths," Ohio Department of Natural Resources, accessed July 11, 2013