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While prevention is truly the best way to keep the diseases the ticks carry from spreading, if perhaps you do find that you, a family member, or a pet has been chosen as a tick’s next meal, there’s no reason to panic. Tick removal is a fairly simple procedure and can be done as soon as a tick has been found on the body.
Ticks, being parasitic, will attach themselves to a host (human or animal) in order to drain their blood. This is similar to the way a mosquito works, except that a mosquito performs her blood-sucking job in just a moment while a tick’s parasitic activity can last up to a few days. Ticks are small, flat bodied creatures with eight small legs. They don’t jump or fly, but they are masters at sticking to you if you brush up against them, and then crawling to undetectable places on your skin.
Be Prepared for Ticks
Before heading out on your time in nature, tuck a pair of tweezers into your hiking or picnic pack so that you are prepared for tick removal if necessary. Toss in a couple of alcohol wipes for cleanliness, and pack a plastic, zippered bag to place the offender in after removal.
Performing a Tick Check
Following your hike in the woods, or even a walk near any foliage or leaves, performing a tick check is prudent. It’s best if you can perform a tick check every two or three hours while you are out in nature, as well as prior to returning home. The sooner you catch a tick, the less likely it is to cause you harm.
Ticks can be a small as a freckle or as large as a few millimeters, and they like to crawl to places where they can feed without being detected. Check your scalp, under the arms, in between the legs, behind the knees, near the belly button, and any other places that ticks could easily hide. A tick check is easier when performed with a partner.
Removal of ticks immediately upon finding them is ideal, which is why you should always have a pair of tweezers with you. Ticks typically must be attached to their hosts for at least 24 hours prior to transmitting disease, so find them right away is key. Immediate removal not only gets rid of the tick to keep disease and infection at bay, but also prevents the tick from coming into your home to breed.
Tick removal is a simple process, performed without any special equipment. Supplies include:
- a cleaning option (rubbing alcohol or soap and warm water),
- and a place to put the tick (zippered bag, jar, or other container)
First, get a good view of the tick. You may need the help, particularly if it is on your scalp or somewhere else difficult to reach. Place the tweezers as close to your skin as possible, grab the tick firmly but don’t crush it. Swiftly pull straight up in one motion, without twisting or jerking. If the tick breaks off in your skin, carefully remove the rest of the head.
After the tick is completely removed, clean the area as well as washing the tweezers and your hands. Use rubbing alcohol if possible, or soap and water. Keep the tick in a plastic zipper bag so that you can take it to your doctor should you begin to experience symptoms. If this isn’t an option, flush it down a toilet.
If you develop a rash or other symptoms of disease within a few weeks of tick removal, contact a healthcare professional right away.
Removing a Tick from Your Pet
If your dog or cat has gotten a tick bite, the concept for removing it is the same as for a human. It may be a bit more complicated to get your dog to sit still. Also, wearing rubber gloves during the removal process would be wise to protect yourself from any diseases the tick might be carrying.
Ticks carry a myriad of diseases and the best way to keep your family safe and healthy is by preventing tick bites altogether. Prevent tick bites by tucking your pants into your socks or boots, as well as using a bug repellent that contains a minimum of 20% DEET, or choose to wear tick protective clothing. Actively avoid coming into contact with ticks by steering clear of foliage or leaves where ticks might be waiting for you to brush up against them.
It’s true the ticks do carry disease causing pathogens that can be dangerous. While tick control and prevention is your best bet, you can safely get rid of ticks without much damage if caught early enough.