The arrival of summer — and along with it all sorts of outdoors activities — also ushers in the arrival of ticks. This guide covers what to do in the event that you find a tick that has already bitten you and embedded itself in your skin. However, the best thing to do is to take a few precautions that’ll increase your chances of not having to extricate a tick from your person to begin with:
- Wear long-sleeved clothing — especially pants, as it’s often our legs that are most exposed to the grass and plants that we brush up against when outdoors.
- Ticks are particularly prone to moist and humid areas, so be especially careful in those conditions.
- Use repellent with DEET.
- When you’ve come indoors after spending time outdoors, check your clothing for ticks.
- After you’ve checked your clothing, shower soon after, and inspect yourself (including those hard-to-reach areas) for the buggers.
While ticks have been scarily imprinted into our psyche, only one species of tick, and only a minority of that species, actually carries Lyme Disease (there are other diseases, but this is the most feared). Furthermore, when bitten, if the tick is removed within 24 hours, your chances of receiving a disease decrease even further. While you must be vigilant, following the tips above will ensure you’re always safe rather than sorry.
- If you find a tick embedded in your skin, use a tweezers or gloves/tissue paper to remove it; don’t use your bare hands.
- Grab the tick as close to its head/mouth as possible – that is, as close to your skin as you can. Don’t yank it out by its main body.
- Gently and slowly pull the tick straight out. Do not twist or wiggle it out, as the head could break off and remain in your skin.
- The CDC recommends that you put the tick into a bag/jar and freeze it, in case later identification is needed by a medical professional.
- Thoroughly clean the bite with rubbing alcohol, and then wash (along with your hands) with warm, soapy water.
- Do NOT try the old wives’ tale remedies of burning the tick or smothering it with nail polish while still on your skin. Doing so can release a tick‘s harmful fluids into your system.
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Illustration by Ted Slampyak