With summer in full swing, chances are that you'll be spending more time outside hiking, having picnics, or even camping. But despite its beauty, nature also brings with it some less desirable occupants — like ticks.
Ticks are a type of arachnid that cause a variety of illnesses such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia. They are typically found in wooded or grassy areas and thrive in warmer weather. While they don't jump or fly, they do climb tall grasses and bushes, which gives them access to potential hosts (i.e. humans or animals).
1. Don't panic.
Generally speaking, the longer a tick stays on your body, the bigger it gets, so a tick the size of a poppy seed means that it's less likely to have been on your body for long. While it takes roughly 36 hours for the tick to transmit disease, try to remove it as quickly as possible after you notice it.
2. Avoid anecdotal remedies.
Nail polish, petroleum jelly, bathing, swimming, or lit matches won't make the tick detach from your skin. In some cases, trying these things can put you at greater risk of injury or disease.
3. Grab your tweezers.
Using fine-tipped tweezers (remember to sterilize them first), grab onto the head of the tick, avoiding its stomach area as much as possible. The organisms that cause tick-borne diseases are in the tick's stomach cavity, so squeezing it can push them into the person's bloodstream.
4. Pull upward using a firm and even pressure.
Avoid twisting or tilting the tweezers — you don't want parts of the tick to break off and stay lodged in your skin. If parts of the tick remain in your body, try to remove as much of it as you can.
5. Clean the wound.
Once you have removed the tick, clean the bite area, your hands, and tweezers with rubbing alcohol.
6. Dispose of the tick.
Avoid crushing the tick with your fingers. Instead, put it in alcohol, flush it down the toilet, or put it in a sealed container and throw it into the trash.
7. Watch for symptoms.
While a single dose of doxycycline within 36 hours may lower your risk of disease after a tick bite, talk to your health care provider before taking anything. In addition, for the next month or so, be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Muscle pain
- Joint swelling and pain
Don't let a fear of ticks stop you from enjoying the outdoors this summer. But if you happen to be in an area that is known for ticks, be sure to regularly and thoroughly check your body and clothing (and your pet, if they are with you) for any ticks that might have hopped aboard for the ride. Don’t forget to check areas where ticks may hide such as behind the knees, elbows, armpits, and areas covered by hair such as the back of your neck and behind the ears.