Ticks are part of the arachnid family, the same family as spiders and scorpions. Today there is a lot of concern over ticks, due to the spread of Lyme disease, which is transmitted by the deer tick.
Ticks feed by attaching their mouths to a host, either animal or human, and then sucking on the host’s blood. According to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Web site, “Black-legged ticks are responsible for transmitting Lyme disease bacteria to humans in the northeastern and north-central United States. On the Pacific Coast, the bacteria are transmitted to humans by the western black-legged tick. Ixodes ticks are much smaller than common dog and cattle ticks,” and are more commonly referred to as deer ticks.
Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. The disease often starts with flu symptoms and can progress to a skin rash (some patients, but not all, see a tell-tale “bullseye rash”) and can progress to more serious stages involving joint, nerve, or heart tissue damage. Antibiotics are usually effective, especially if treatment starts early in the disease process. Lyme disease and its co-infections have been reported in at least 47 states, mainly in the northeast and north-central states in the U.S.
What Happens If You Find An Attached Tick?
If you find a tick attached to your skin (or your child’s), do not panic. Not all ticks are infected with Lyme disease, but if you find a tick, the sooner you find it and remove it, the less are the chances that you will be infected by the disease.
To remove a tick:
Using a pair of pointed precision tweezers*, grasp the tick by the head or mouthparts right where they enter the skin. DO NOT grasp the tick by the body.
Without jerking, pull, firmly and steadily, directly outward. DO NOT twist the tick out, or apply petroleum jelly, a hot match, alcohol or any other irritant to the tick in an attempt to get it to back out. These methods can backfire, and can even increase the chances of the tick transmitting the disease.
Place the tick in a vial or jar of alcohol to kill it.
Clean the bite wound with disinfectant. Then, monitor the site of the bite for the appearance of a rash or flu-like symptoms beginning 3 to 30 days after the bite. At the same time, learn about the other early symptoms of Lyme disease, and watch to see if they appear in about the same time frame. If a rash or other early symptoms develop, see a physician immediately.
*Keep in mind that certain types of fine-pointed tweezers, especially those that are etched, or rasped, at the tips, may not be effective in removing nymphal deer ticks. Choose unrasped fine-pointed tweezers whose tips align tightly when pressed firmly together.
Check out these other great stories on protecting yourself and pets from ticks!