By Cindy Aldrige, F.N.P., Provider for Lee’s Summit Physicians Group
If you find a tick on your skin after being outside, you need to get it off as soon as possible. Don’t leave it in place for someone else to look at. You can Google, YouTube, or search any reference and there will be information on tick removal. The idea is to pull the tick off intact and not to get the contents of the tick on you. So never squeeze a tick when it’s on you, and don’t mash a tick after it’s off of you.
When you find an attached tick, first clean the skin around the area with alcohol or soap and water.
You will need to find tweezers for tick removal. If it’s a large tick, fingernails can work also. Get down under the tick as close to the skin surface as you can and pull gently using firm, upward pressure. The idea is to not twist or jerk the tick. The goal is to remove the entire tick including it’s head and mouth.
The CDC has pictures to show you proper technique for removing a tick. Avoid folklore treatment of tick bites like painting the tick with fingernail polish, lighting a match and holding it to the tick, or anything that prolongs the time the tick is attached to you or puts you at risk for other injuries. The longer it’s attached, the risk of disease transmission goes up.
Tick bites can transmit diseases, especially those that have been attached longer than 24 hours.
Generally, symptoms start soon after the tick bite from 2-30 days. Target or bulls eye rashes need to be reported and evaluated by your health care provider. Tick borne illnesses can range from very mild and treated at home with a prescription to severe and needing hospitalization. Rashes, fever, change in skin at the bite site, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches are some of the most common complaints of tick related illnesses.
The prevalence of diseases related to tick bites depends on the geographical area you live in.
Remember to take a shower and check your body for ticks (even tiny ones that are as small as a strawberry seed) after every outdoor adventure. Wear long pants and tall socks when walking through high brush. There are insect sprays that can deter ticks and other insects as well. Ultimately, stay active but stay safe and be quick to get a tick off of you as soon as it’s found!