Ticks – Lyme disease and removal techniques

Removing ticks as soon as you spot them is paramount. These may look quite harmless, but left undetected they can cause all manner of problems. Ticks will attach themselves to humans and animals, so it is important to keep an eye on your pets just as much as yourself.

Ticks can carry Lyme disease. This is a debilitating illness which manifests itself with flu like symptoms. Fever, lethargy, aching joints and general malady are all symptoms. You may also find a ‘target’ mark. This looks like a bullseye, where there is a central red spot up to 1” in diameter which is surrounded by a paler pink coloured area. Left unchecked, this area can spread up to 20” in diameter. If you spot any of these symptoms then you should seek immediate medical advice. You should continue to check for symptoms for about 4 weeks following removal of a tick. If any of the above symptoms develop, then seek medical advice immediately. Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics which in the majority of cases will deal with the problem quite quickly. There is a growing complaint from sufferers that they have become chronically ill following a Lyme disease infection. Medical practitioners are divided on whether or not the condition exists, but sufferers report all too real experiences and you would rather not have to deal with a lifetime of the symptoms detailed above.

tick removal

There are a number of affordable tools available to buy these days which can make the process simple and painless. Or you can simply use pointed tweezers. You need to use specifically pointed end tweezers, as the more common eyebrow type will not suffice.

tweezers

If using the pointed tweezers, then you should ensure that you grasp the mouth below the head, and pull straight up. You may find it a little resistive, but this is normal.

If you have a proprietary removal tool, then the instructions state that you should use a twisting action while pulling. These tools are deigned to be used this way, and you should not twist while using tweezers.

Following removal, be sure to bathe the affected area in antiseptic and keep it clean and covered up.

The point of using these tools is to ensure that the body of the tick is not damaged during removal, as this can have unwanted consequences leading to some of the situations outlined below.

Methods which should NOT be used!

  1. Burning / freezing – this can cause pain to the tick. What this tends to do is make the tick regurgitate, and that means its stomach contents are emptied all over your wound.
  2. Using chemicals – for the same reason as burning, not to be used.
  3. Killing the tick – simply squashing the tick will mean that a) the head is still embedded in your skin, and b) the contents of its stomach will again flood over your wound.

If possible, keep the tick and label it with the date found and location found. Different areas are running studies on tick population and yours may be new information for that study. Check with your local health or agriculture administration to find out if this is available in your area.

Remember that prevention is always better than cure. If you are going to be visiting an area where ticks are prevalent, then you should take appropriate precautions. Wear long trousers if possible and carry a suitable removal tool or tweezers. Try to stick to paths and avoid any dense vegetation. Use an insect repellent.

Check pets immediately on leaving an affected area (ears, eyes, muzzle, tails and toes) and continue to monitor them as it may be some time before they start to show signs of infection. Use insect repellent collars if possible.