Ticks are Tricky: How to Treat Them

According to the Center for Disease Control, there were nearly 35,000 cases of Lyme disease reported in the United States in 2014 (the most recent year on record). While that number is down from the nearly 40,000 cases reported in 2009 (the worst year on record), the incidence of Lyme disease in the U.S. has continually surpassed the 30,000 cases/year mark that was first established in 2008.

In fact, “Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vectorborne illness in the United States.”

While not all ticks carry Lyme disease, you can get Lyme disease from a tick bite. So checking for ticks might be the most important thing you do this summer, and once you find them, you need to know the proper way to remove them.

Jim Dill of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension has you covered:

  • If you’re using tweezers:
    • Approach the tick from the side, so the tip of the tweezers extend beyond the edge of the tick
    • Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible
    • Slowly pull the tick away from the skin in a consistent, steady motion
      • DO NOT pull the tick with hard, jerking motions. You may leave mouth parts behind.
  • If you’re using a tick spoon:
    • Approach the tick from the side, with the slot of the spoon facing the tick
    • Press down slightly on the skin with the tick spoon
    • With even pressure, slide the spoon right through, scooping the tick
      • Imagine your goal is simply to push the tick to the side
  • DO NOT…
    • …use flat tweezers. You risk squeezing/damaging the tick, which increases the risk of bacteria/gut contents/viruses the tick may be carrying to enter your body
    • …use baby oil, petroleum jelly, nail polish, hand soap, detergent, or other chemicals. These things smother the tick and cause them to die slowly. As they die, they’re more likely to put bacteria and other harmful contents into your body
    • …use matches. Pressing a tick with a freshly burnt match will cause it to jump or react in a defensive way, again increasing the chances of harmful contents being put into your body
  • Once you’ve successfully removed the tick, place it in a covered container with a little rubbing alcohol. If you show signs of Lyme disease (or other problems), you can take the tick to get tested and speed up your diagnostic/treatment process
  • Once the tick is removed, clean the site of the bit with soap and water and a little bit of rubbing alcohol

Following these steps, you can reduce your chances of contracting Lyme disease or other illnesses a tick may pass on. If you’re worried that you may have contracted Lyme disease, compare your systems and seek medical attention immediately.

Hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable summer!

How do you protect yourself and your family from ticks? Share your tips below!

James Ernest Cassady

James Ernest Cassady

Though "Ernest" is a family name that's been passed down for generations, James truly earned his middle moniker when, at the age of five, he told his mother that "laughing is stupid unless EVERYBODY is happy." Since then, the serious little bastard has been on a mission to highlight the world's shortcomings (and hopefully correct them). In addition to his volunteer work at hospitals and animal shelters, James also enjoys documentaries and the work of William Faulkner. He is originally from Oklahoma.

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