Absolutely correct, John. Thanks for pointing that out about tick sizes!
Ticks come in different sizes and color patterns as there are different species of ticks.
While often stated, it is true, the smallest ticks are the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Yup.......
Most town Board of Health have wonderful laminated cards that fit in a wallet that are tick identification cards. Here is an example borrowed from the site: www. fryisland.com.
As for avoidance, the one thing you certainly won't hear from me is avoid the outdoors or woods! Go where you want and enjoy where you go (ok, no trespassing though).
Bug spray helps as does help some, though not all sprays help all people. Skin So Soft never did a thing but make me stink, while other people swear by it. Ben's and a citronella, those are my friends. Deet is a last resort. I like my chemicals to come with latin names.
For heavy exposure (bushwackers in Essex, Middlesex) Deet works well on non-sensitve adults. In Boxford, Topsfield, Gloucester, Ipswich I wear DEET to the midseason jobs. Usually if the town is the northern counties or in a no firearms discharge town, the deer population is off the charts. So follows the tick population.
Kids...consider going the physical route. Light pants, tall light socks pulled over the pants cuffs. It is often advised to put kids in long sleeve shirts, hats, high necks and full coverage. In full disclosure in that I don't have kids, covering anyone (adults too) from head to toe seems to reinforce a fear factor. If one respects, understands and prepares for the situation it just becomes part of the day.
Making tick checks a routine part the walk or training ("now is we have a water break, when we have water we look on ourselves for ticks. We then look over each other") is important. Even the old sage outdoor professionals train/ require the younger ones on just such a habit.
Light clothes. Khakis, those nylonish conversion desert pant pants or even light colored Carharts pants help. Boots are good, but as a Merrills girl, thick wool socks seem to add some resistance. They don't like thick stuff. Just the same, after a day in the field, I check about once an hour for 7 hours and a few times the next day as they might go from your coat to car seat only to be pick up on the morning commute. There is no such thing as finding one tick. Seriously.
You bring up a very valuable point about tick bites.
What actually happens when you get bit?
The tick mouthpart isn't a piercer like a needle, but is more like a hammerhead shark razored back and forth into the skin. Enzymes and saliva go into the skin, both numbing and anti-cloting the area. If a tick is pulled off (let's say 3 hours after with little/minimal Lyme risk) some pretty nasty and scary looking stuff is going to happen.
As the painkillers wear off, it will become a bit sore to touch and raise up. The area (smaller than a dime) will become dark. The spot where the tick was removed may become a dark scab.
There is nasty stuff in tick spit and your body knows it. Tick bites do not go away quickly. They may take over a week.
While I have dealt with Lyme disease briefly, ticks carry other diseases that transmit in under 24 hours. They are less common and have not been dealt with here. Again, if something doesn't seem right. Go to the doctor. Soon.
If bit, remove the tick. Bathe the bite generoulsy in alcohol. Slather in an antibiotic salve and cover (mostly because the antibiotic will stick to anything). Repeat at least daily. This will drastically cut down how nasty the wound becomes and for how long it stays.
This is the part where I insert that this is not medical advice and if you have so much as a passing thought, consult with your doctor.
To pass on something I hadn't considered, but was brought up:
Ticks do not jump. They physically can't. They are not like fleas nor the Monty Python white rabbit.
Ticks are sensitive to temperature, so cold ticks will move slower that hot ones. Still, they will not race up your body in minutes like a snake over sand.
People will not tell you if you have a tick on you. Seriously. Stigma of some sort~ perhaps it is considered impolite to mention there is vermin on someones forhead, perhaps fear (Where was he that he picked that up? He might hurt me) or open disgust (how can someone be in public like that!). Please make a promise that should you see a tick on someone, tell them, as it is really not an intended accessory. And chances are you'll be rewarded with a quick story about a secret gem of a place in the outdoors.
Alright, next I am going to get off this topic and move to something as owned by spring as new buds. Yup, how to properly handle wildlife that is in the wrong place, abandoned or aggressive (either protective or diseased).
All babies are cute. The parents coming up behind you (as you bend over the kids) are generally not. Let's avoid unecessary conflicts.