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photo of a tick

Tick Removal

If you detect a tick, use only disinfected pointy tweezers and not household ones.

The first line of defense against tick-borne infection is you. The more you know in advance and the faster you take the right steps when bitten, the greater the chances of a healthy outcome.

“Ticks cannot jump or fly,” says Larry Dapsis, director of the Barnstable County Deer Tick Project. “They attach to you, pets or other animals that brush up against them. Nymph stage ticks are found mostly at ground level. Adult stage ticks can be found up to a couple of feet off the ground on vegetation.”

Once ticks attach to your shoes, socks or pant leg, they typically crawl up, looking for a place to feed. As a result, Dapsis recommends that you:

  • Tuck your pant cuffs into socks
  • Check inside your cuffs
  • Use repellents and follow all instructions
  • Always do a tick check after coming inside
  • Tumble dry your clothes for 20 minutes

The University of Rhode Island’s TickEncounter website http://tickencounter.org cautions: “Household tweezers just aren’t the right tool for proper tick removal. The use of household tweezers increases the chances of tearing the tick during removal, especially nymphs which are active from early April to August.”

Once you have grasped the tick by its head, pull it up straight, instructs Dapsis. Avoid twisting it.

He also recommends:

  • Do not use matches, cigarettes, petroleum jelly, gasoline or nail polish remover
  • After removing the tick, apply antiseptic to the bite area
  • Note the date the tick was removed
  • Save the tick in a Ziploc® bag for identification to determine if it is carrying infection

“Many people just want to get rid of the tick and they will often flush it down the toilet or throw it outside,” says Dapsis. “You really want to have as much data as possible to talk to your doctor.”

Even before visiting a physician, you can send the tick specimen for a laboratory analysis at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s College of Natural Sciences, which has developed a battery of tests on disease-causing microbes in ticks. The test costs $50 and has a turnaround of about three to five business days.

To learn more and order tests, visit https://www.tickreport.com/#services

Another place to visit is the TickEncounter Resource Center. Please visit http://tickencounter.org/tick_testing

If you submit a photo of the tick to the site’s TickSpotter, it promises you will receive a customized reply full of best practices and next steps advice within one to three days. If the tick is likely to carry disease causing microbes, TickEncounter will refer you to the UMass Amherst lab.