I used to get nervous when I went hiking or camping in the woods because of ticks. Multiple species of ticks can be found all over the world and many of these bugs carry dangerous diseases ranging from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to Lyme Disease. Fortunately, I learned how to remove ticks quickly and safely to reduce the risk of contracting illnesses from these parasitic insects.
Reacting to a tick
Getting a tick bite does not automatically mean you will become sick from whatever disease that tick carries. Removing a tick within the first 24 hours will drastically reduce your chances of getting infected. The important thing is to not panic. If you find a tick attached to your skin, stay calm, and find a place where you can quickly and safely remove it.
Tick removal myths
You may have heard that you can burn off a tick or use chemicals such as alcohol, nail polish, or petroleum jelly to extract the tick. These removal methods are not advised and can produce unwanted consequences. Burning the tick or dousing it with a chemical will hurt the bug and cause it to secrete saliva or regurgitate, releasing infected material into your bloodstream.
How to remove a tick
You can purchase various tick removal tools. In their absence, A pair of fine-tipped tweezers will work well in dislodging a tick from under your skin. Do not use your fingernails to remove a tick. An infection could enter through any breaks in your skin close to the fingernail.
Follow these simple steps to get the job done:
- Use the tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the surface of your skin as possible.
- Pull upward while applying continuous even pressure. Maintain the pressure until the tick detaches from your skin.
- After removing the tick from your skin, cleanse both the affected area and your hands with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
Never twist or wrench the tick while extracting it with tweezers. This will cause the tick’s mouth to break off underneath your skin. If the mouth does break off, also remove that portion of the tick with clean tweezers. If you cannot extract it easily, treat the bite to prevent infection, and let the skin heal. Digging into your skin will only damage your tissue and create a greater risk of infection.
Getting rid of a tick
Once you have extracted the tick, you need to put it in a place where it can’t escape. Seal the tick inside an air-tight bag and throw the bag away or toss it in the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Crushing it can expose your skin to tick blood that is infected with whatever disease the tick is carrying.
You can save the tick inside of a sealed container if you want to get it tested for diseases as a precautionary measure. Label the container with the date and time that the tick bite occurred, so it can be identified and tested for diseases.
You should monitor the area around the tick bite. Bites will usually leave a red mark that vanishes within a couple of days. If a red bullseye-like area appears and lingers around the bite, that could be an early sign of Lyme Disease. If you exhibit other symptoms, such as a rash or a fever, appear within a couple of weeks after getting bitten, consult your doctor immediately.
Preventing Tick Bites
Preventing a tick bite can be as simple as avoiding contact with thick shrubs, tall grasses, woodpiles, trees, and other areas where ticks can be found. If you’re hiking through or camping in wooded areas, wearing thick, long clothing and heavy boots will create an extra layer of protection. Bug sprays can also help prevent ticks from attaching to your skin or clothing.
When you return from an outdoor excursion, take an immediate shower and then wash and dry your clothing in hot water. You should also examine yourself head to toe when you return indoors and check your gear for signs of ticks. Examine your pets from head to tail if they were also outdoors with you.
Getting bitten by a tick sounds scary, but there’s no reason to panic when it happens. Using the methods of extracting and disposing of a tick outlined in this article will help you keep a minor irritation from turning into a larger ordeal.