Disambiguation: this article covers how to remove ticks of the arachnid variety and does not cover the process required to remove the lovable blue hero and, Arthur, his moth-costumed sidekick from the 90’s animated series, The Tick, though low ratings seem capable of doing the job.
With that out of the way, focus can now shift to those eight-legged blood-suckers known and loved by all. Okay, loved is a bit disingenuous. Trying to find redeeming qualities about ticks is like trying to think of something good about Joffery Baratheon – it borders on the impossible. According to the incredibly handy maps put out by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), you can see that some species of tick inhabits nearly every corner of the continental United States , and with 899 unique species discovered to date , ticks maintain a healthy presence across the globe. Still, these eight-legged blood-suckers are more than just a nuisance, as they are known to carry and transmit diseases such as:
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Lyme disease
- Powassan Disease
- Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis
- Ehrlichia chaffeensis
- Ehrlichia ewingii
- Colorado Tick Fever
Keep in mind that these diseases are those transmitted by the ninety or so species living inside the United States and does not take into account any tick-borne illness occurring outside those borders. Nature loving globetrotters will need to remain vigilant in order to protect themselves against such ailments as:
- Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever- prevalent in Eastern Europe
- Various forms of Spotted Fevers- such as African Spotted Fever
- Kyasanur Forest Disease- from India, and a similar strain found in Saudi Arabia
- Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever- typically encountered in Siberia
- Tick borne encephalitis- found all over Europe, Asia, and Russia
Tick Bite Prevention
When planning a hike or a trek through the woods, the method of treating the exposed areas of your body with insect repellent is obsolete. Now, experts recommend pre-treating your clothing with a chemical known as Permethrin to keep the pests away. Treating your lawn with a tick specific pesticide such as those found here is the best way to keep your family safe while enjoying those warm Spring and Summer days. Don’t forget to keep your grass cut down to a height that would make your father proud, and rake up those leaves it was just too cold to rake up during those winter months while you are at it.
Checking for Ticks
Country music fans will know that though absolutely necessary, inspecting one’s body for these tiny arachnids doesn’t have to be an entirely unpleasurable experience.
Still, even if you treated every article of clothing with Permethrin and then coated exposed skin with good old Deet, it is still a good idea to inspect your body for the tiny blood-suckers at the conclusion of every wilderness activity. Though they will “get in where they fit in,” popular tick hangouts include the ankles, armpits, hair, and backside of the knee. Remember, the likelihood of a carrier tick transmitting a disease decreases with swift and complete removal.
Perhaps you have a past similar to your author’s and grew up with a Coors Light loving uncle who insisted that the absolute best way- the only way, really- to remove a tick was to hold a flame on a Bic lighter long enough to see the metallic protector turn ever so slightly red, and then mash said metallic portion of the lighter onto the tick and whatever, or whose ever, piece of flesh to which it had attached itself. If are unfortunate enough to have had this experience, you will know already that this is one of the worst ideas an adult human being has ever developed. What you may not know is that this method actually increases the chances of disease transmittal. To properly remove a tick from a person or a pet, here are a few steps you can follow:
- Locate a pair of tweezers. Sterilize them if necessary. Do not apply any ointment or disinfectant until after removal.
- Grip the tick as close to the head (the embedded part) as possible. The object is to remove the arachnid in one piece.
- Pull straight up, as gently as possible. Do not yank, or tug, or twist. Remember; one piece removal is the goal.
- If you have to reset, regroup, and re-grip, do so. As long as the tick is removed in 24 hours, the chance for disease transmittal is as low as it is going to get.
- In the event that the tick is ripped apart, and the mouth and/or head remain attached to the person or pet, it may not be necessary to remove the remaining portion of the arachnid. Given time, the host body should expel the invader on its own. What you will need to do is to watch for signs of:
- Muscle Pain
- Difficulty focusing
- If you or your loved one experience any/all of these symptoms, seek professional medical care immediately.
Down to the Marrow
While it is impossible, in this life, to prevent every unfortunate incident, ticks do not have to be an inevitable consequence of summer or nature. By treating your lawn, keeping your grass cut to a reasonable height, raking up decaying leaves that are known to crowd fence lines, trimming bushes, pre-treating your clothing and skin with a quality repellent, you should be able to minimize your tick encounters. If you do happen to find one of the eight-legged blood-suckers on yourself, one of your children, or a beloved pet, remember that it is not an automatic cause for panic. Ticks can carry diseases, but not every tick does. Remain calm and follow the steps outlined above to remove the invader. If you do not feel confident in your ability to safely remove the pest, or are unable to do so for some other reason, seek medical attention. After all, ticks are a nuisance, not a death warrant.