Questions about ticks?
– Learn how to remove a tick safely from your skin
– Learn how to prevent tick bites when you're outside
– Learn how to identify tick bite symtoms and signs
How to remove a tick
– Use a small pair of curved forceps or tweezers. Wear some sort of hand protection such as gloves so you don't spread pathogens from the tick to your hands.
– Using the tweezers, carefully flip the tick over onto its back. Grasp the tick firmly with the tweezers as close to the skin as possible. Apply gentle pulling until the tick comes free. Twisting or turning the tick does not make removal easier because the mouthparts are barbed; in fact, such actions may break off the head and mouthparts, thereby increasing the chances for infection. The illustration below from the U.S. CDC (Figure 5) shows the proper technique for removal of a tick.
|Figure 5: The proper technique for tick removal. Source: CDC|
– Once removed, don't crush the tick because you may transmit disease. Rinse it down a sink or flush it down a toilet. Consider keeping it in a tightly closed jar or taped to a piece of paper. Show the tick to the doctor if you become ill from the tick bite.
– The area of the bite should leave a small crater or indentation where the head and mouthparts were embedded. If portions of the head or mouthparts remain, they should be removed by a doctor.
– Thoroughly cleanse the bite area with soap and water or a mild disinfectant. Observe the area for several days for development of a reaction to the bite, such as a rash or signs of infection. Apply first-aid antibiotic cream to the area. Application of an antibiotic to the area may help prevent a local infection but usually does not affect the chance of developing diseases transmitted by the tick.
– Remember to wash hands thoroughly after handling any tick or instruments that touched a tick. Clean and disinfect any instruments that were used.
How are bites from ticks prevented?
Other than avoiding tick season completely by staying away from outdoor areas where ticks thrive, usually during the months of April through September in the U.S. here are some recommended precautions to take when going outside:
– Avoid grassy areas and shrubs where ticks populations may be high and where they reside, waiting to grab a ride on a potential host.
– Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can be easily seen, and brush them off.
– Tuck pants into boots or socks to avoid ticks crawling up loose pant legs.
– Apply insect repellant and use the brands designed to repel ticks. Follow label instructions. Avoid use of DEET-containing repellents on children. Carefully follow instructions and apply some repellents directly to skin and others to clothing. DEET-containing repellents with concentrations of 15% or less may be suitable for children. These should be carefully applied strictly following label directions. Repellents containing permethrins may be applied to clothing but not to skin. In areas that have a high tick population, DEET-containing repellents may need to be reapplied more frequently than for repelling mosquitoes. Follow the package label instructions carefully.
– Promptly check yourself, others, and pets if exposed to areas where ticks are likely to be located.
Be sure to treat pets with flea and tick repellents. If ticks are removed from pets, manage them the same way you would remove a tick on a person. Protect yourself from the potential exposures with gloves. People who live in a tick-infested area and have experienced a fever within the last two months should not donate blood. Taking antibiotics for the prevention of Lyme disease is controversial and probably only useful in areas of the country where exposure to deer ticks would be high.
What are tick bite symptoms and signs?
Unfortunately, the tick bite is usually painless and remains that way even after the tick stops the blood meal and falls off of the skin. Later, the bite site may develop itching, burning, redness, and rarely, localized intense pain (some soft tick bites) in some individuals. A few individuals may be sensitive or allergic to tick bites (tick saliva secretions) and develop rash, shortness of breath, swelling, numbness, or paralysis. However, the majority of individuals with tick bites develop no symptoms, and many do not remember getting bitten.
Some immediate symptoms that infrequently or rarely develop during or immediately after a tick bite may be fever, shortness of breath, weakness, vomiting, swelling, weakness or paralysis, headache, confusion, or palpitations. Individuals with these symptoms should be seen immediately by a doctor.
What is the treatment for a tick bite?
For all tick bites, local cleansing and antibiotic cream may be applied. If the bite area develops itching, preparations containing diphenhydramine (Benadryl) are recommended. These Benadryl compounds can be applied directly to the skin for itching or administered orally by tablets. This is usually the only treatment needed.
However, treatment of the pathogens that the tick may pass to a person depends on other factors, such as the type of tick, length of time of attachment to the host, diseases in the community, and symptoms developed by the patient. Specific treatment is based on the identity of the pathogen transmitted. For example, oral antibiotics may be prescribed for some diseases. With more significant symptoms, antibiotics may need to be given intravenously and the patient may need to be hospitalized. The best approach to treatment is to diagnose which pathogen has been transmitted to the patient (for example, Borrelia species of bacteria) and then use the specific treatment to reduce or kill the pathogen.
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