Tick bites are an annoyance for most people. But for some of us, they can also be deadly. Ticks carry diseases and are also known to cause allergic reactions in some people. On top of that, if you try to remove them in the wrong way, you could make the situation even worse.
Some diseases carried by ticks include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and ehrlichiosis. Allergic reactions are typically mild but can result in anaphylaxis. The Lone Star tick can transmit a sugar molecule that, in some people, results in an allergy to red meat. So, if you suffer an allergic reaction or see any worrying symptoms after being bitten by a tick, make sure you seek medical help.
Given all that, everyone should be well informed when it comes to tick bite first aid and proper tick removal. Read on as we take you through the ins and outs of this process.
What Not to Do
First of all, before we move on to the correct procedures to follow after a tick bite, here are the major don’ts when it comes to tick bite first aid.
- Don’t use your fingers or fingernails to pull or scratch ticks out.
- Don’t attempt to burn the tick off using a lighter or matches.
- Don’t apply any substances (such as petroleum jelly or nail polish) besides Lyclear Scabies Cream, soap and water, alcohol, and/or antiseptic cream to the tick or the bite site. (We’ll talk more about this below.)
- Don’t twist or jerk the tick as you’re removing it.
When you try to remove a live tick, squeezing, crushing, or puncturing it can make it release its saliva and other bodily fluids. The tick’s bodily fluids are what contain dangerous pathogens and bacteria, some of which can lead to paralysis in their victim or cause an allergic reaction. Others just happen to be pathogens that are harmful to humans.
Freeze the Ticks. Don’t Squeeze Them!
The most important thing when you discover an attached tick is to remove it as soon as possible. This can be accomplished with fine-tipped tweezers. If you don’t have tweezers, use a tissue or cloth between your fingers to avoid touching the tick. Be sure to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. The goal is to remove the tick and its mouthparts without squeezing its body. If, however, you have reason to be concerned about an allergic reaction, go down to your local pharmacy and buy one of the sprays-on products that you can use to freeze warts. Hold the nozzle of the spray bottle about 1 cm (0.4 in) from the tick and then spray it on the tick 5 times. If you’re lucky, this will freeze the tick to death. These products are suitable for kids age four and up.
After the tick is dead, you can pluck it out using some very fine tweezers. In some cases, dead ticks will fall off on their own. Make sure you only grip the mouthparts of the tick and pull it straight out using a single movement that is smooth but firm. Never squeeze the body of a tick that is clinging to your skin, even if it’s dead. Once you have removed the tick, wash the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
Another useful tip:
Don’t worry if fragments of the tick’s mouthparts remain behind after you remove it. They’ll come out on their own later on, like a splinter. The mouth doesn’t contain any toxins or pathogens, only the tick’s body does.
After you’ve removed the tick, you can expect some irritation and itchiness around the bite site for a week or more. So, remember to regularly apply an antiseptic cream to the area to avoid any chance of infection.
If you’ve been bitten by juvenile ticks, called nymphs (freshly hatched), you may need to use a product known as Lyclear Scabies Cream instead of a wart freezing spray. This is usually used as a treatment for scabies, which is a mite infestation under the skin. It contains permethrin and so is also effective at repelling ticks. Any other scabies cream brand will also do if Lyclear is not available in your area. Look for 5% permethrin skin cream.
Simply remove the cap and apply a small blob of cream directly on top of the tick, being sure to cover the entire body of the tick. Make sure that you don’t rub it in for the same reasons that you don’t want to remove a live tick using tweezers. Leave the cream as it is for 1/2 hour. The tick should fall off when it dies. However, if it doesn’t, simply remove it using tweezers.
This method can only really be used with juvenile ticks. Unlike wart freezing sprays, permethrin creams can be used on children as young as 2 months.
What If I Can’t Get to the Pharmacy?
As a last resort, you can also remove a tick using very fine-nosed tweezers. These tweezers must be fine enough that you can grip the head (i.e. mouthparts) of the tick. Picture of the sort of tweezers used by jewelers because, again, you do not want to squeeze the tick. Surgical forceps with an extremely fine, curved tip are ideal.
To remove a tick, push gently down on the skin around the tick so that you can access to mouthparts embedded in your skin. Once you’ve got a good grip, apply firm pressure and pull the tick straight out in one movement, without twisting.
Once again, you can expect some itchiness and irritation after removing a tick. So, to prevent complications, apply an antiseptic cream regularly.