Just the thought of this conversation makes me want to check my skin for ticks! If you are like me, go ahead and check. Then come back and read what to do about getting the tick off your skin, as safely as possible.
Why should I worry about Ticks?
Other than being bothersome, ticks can transmit diseases to humans. There are many diseases that can be spread by ticks, but what we tend to be more worried about is the Deer tick. It can carry diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. In 2014, there were 33,461 reported cases in the U.S. Rocky Mountain Spotted fever accounted for 3,647 of those cases. There are other tick-borne diseases, but they are not as common. Overall, the incidence of these diseases are increasing in the United States every year.
Is that why Ticks are so hard to remove?
Ticks are especially adapted to do what they do best: latch on, hang on, and suck blood. As they latch on to your skin, they inject an anesthetic so you can’t feel them latching on. The tick then secretes a ‘glue’ locking itself in place, so it won’t fall off, or get pulled off easily. After it has glued itself to you- if you are thinking of removing it, think of it like removing a part of your body from your skin…. It is like that! Then, once they have attached themselves to you, the bacteria- that have been lying dormant in the tick’s gut- is awakened by your blood that the tick has ingested. The bacteria can then flow into your bloodstream and make you sick. This is why you don’t want to squash that tick to get him off of you! You might cause the tick to disgorge the bacteria filled contents into you! The whole process of the tick attaching itself to you, ingesting your blood which awakens the bacteria in the tick’s gut (that had been lying dormant quietly), takes about 24 hours, so you do have a little time to remove them, before they are able to transmit disease to you.
How should I remove a Tick?
The best way to remove a tick it is to use a fine tipped, curved forceps or tweezers, and slowly pull the tick straight out. Try not to squeeze the body, but grab the area where the tick is attaching to your skin and pull straight out. If you are out somewhere, and do not happen to have tweezers or forceps with you, you can use a credit card in between the body and your skin, to raise the tick off you. As awful as it might sound, mouthparts might be left under the skin, which can make you itch. The good news is, these should eventually work themselves out of your skin on their own.
Whatever you do, you don’t want to just pull it out. If you do, you could squeeze the contents of the tick’s gut into your skin along with disease causing bacteria with it. Lighting it with a flame, smothering it with Vaseline, or covering it with fingernail polish are no good either. Ticks can live without air for a long time, and survive attached to your skin- without breathing- for hours; much longer than you want it attached to you! And, while you are waiting for it to let go and fall off on its own, it could be disgorging its contents into you!
The first step is tick-proofing your environment. For more information on how to tick-proof your environment, read the blog on Ticks – How to Evict them from my Life! And, for a quick read on you might know if you have Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a Tick bite, read: Ticks – Is it Lyme Disease, or Something Else? And, if all else fails, contact BitMED and we can advise you!
By BitMED Provider: Allison Godchaux MD