Tick Removal 101

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When it comes to removing ticks—no matter the species—nail polish, petroleum jelly, gasoline and, worse yet, fire, are not the answer. A plain set of fine-tipped tweezers should do the trick.

First, don’t panic and take action. Do not wait for the tick to detach itself. Grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Don’t twist or jerk the tick. This can cause the hypostome to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove with tweezers or leave it alone and let the skin heal.

After removal, thoroughly clean the bite area and hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water. And then save it and document it.

“Once you remove the tick, you really should either put it in rubbing alcohol or tape it onto a card so it doesn’t escape,” Scott Campbell, head of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Arthropod-Borne Disease Laboratory, said last week during a telephone interview. “Otherwise, it will stay alive. Mark it where bitten and when, like it’s a medical record. You can take that to a physician and say, ‘This is where I got it off me, could this be the problem if symptoms occur later down the road?’”

The most common signs of tick-related illnesses are fever and chills, aches and pains, and a rash. The “bull’s-eye” Lyme disease rash usually appears within three to 30 days, typically before the fever, according to the CDC. While not painful, the warm rash occurs in 70 to 80 percent of infected hosts and begins at the site.

A Lone Star tick bite victim can contract Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, or STARI. The rash is nearly identical to that of Lyme disease, with a red, expanding, circular lesion that develops around the bite site. But unlike Lyme disease, STARI has not been linked to any arthritic or neurological symptoms.

Tick-borne diseases can result in mild symptoms treatable at home to severe infections requiring hospitalization. Although easily treated with antibiotics, these diseases can be difficult for physicians to diagnose. Early recognition and treatment of the infection decreases the risk of serious complications, so see a doctor immediately if bitten by a tick and experience any of the symptoms described above.

For more information, visit cdc.gov.

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