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Tick Talk: how to remove ticks and prevent Lyme Disease

** Be sure to also read my update on this post here. I want to inform you on some of the new information I have found.

“OMG! There’s a tick on me”

That was me, screaming at the top of my lungs.

I had never had a tick on me before and I was totally freaked out.

And, contrary to everything I knew and had advised others about, I impulsively just grabbed it and pulled it off. And threw it away. I even had my trusty tick remover with me.

Not good.

Ticks are gross, and scary and, unfortunately, potentially very dangerous. They are the carriers of Lyme Disease.

And if you find one on you, or your child or pets, there are safe (see below), and unsafe ways (see above) to remove them.

I chose the unsafe way because I panicked. And immediately after, I realized what I had done.

I was in the middle of the Oregon wilderness at the time, an hour and a half drive from the nearest town. I knew that there was a very low incidence of Lyme Disease in Oregon, but low does not mean none.

A few hours after removing the tick, the area on my leg where it had had its lunch, started to turn red.

That was enough for me – time to get back to civilization and get medical attention.

The thing about a tick bite is that if you notice it right away, and undergo some antibiotic treatment, you can stop it from progressing into Lyme Disease.

Since I didn’t have the tick body to test and I already had a red, slightly swollen area, the doctor recommended a preventive course of antibiotics.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of antibiotics and I believe they are very overprescribed, but Lyme Disease is serious business and I wasn’t going to take chances.

How serious?

Last week I attended a fundraising event for a man in our town who is suffering terribly from Lyme Disease. He himself was unable to attend, but hearing his loved ones talk about his harrowing experience was heartbreaking and disturbing.

More than anything, they pleaded with the audience to “Talk about Ticks” so others can be spared his (and their) suffering.

So, I am Talking about Ticks.

According to the BC Centre for Disease Control:

There is only a very small chance of ticks transmitting Lyme Disease to humans. However, the disease can be serious, so it is worth taking steps to avoid being bitten.

The important thing to know is that if you catch a tick on your body quickly and are always vigilant about prevention AND searching for them routinely every day, you CAN prevent Lyme Disease.

  • Only ticks that are attached and have finished feeding or are near the end of their meal can transmit Lyme Disease. After arriving on the skin, the tick that spreads Lyme Disease usually takes 24 hours before feeding begins.
  • Even if a tick is attached, it must have taken a blood meal to transmit Lyme Disease. At least 36 to 48 hours of feeding is required for a tick to have fed and then transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme Disease. After this amount of time, the tick will be engorged (full of blood). An engorged tick has a globular shape and is larger than an unengorged one.

unfed and fed tick

  • Time and vigilance, is of the essence!

 

So let’s look at what you can do to avoid being bitten by a tick.

This is a compilation of many websites I visited. There are some recurring themes on all of them which I’ve listed below.

  • When possible, stay out of areas with tall grass or weeds, where ticks often live. Ticks just “hang out” on tall grass and wait for you to come along.
  • If you are out hiking, encourage your children to stay on trails and avoid brushing against grass and brush
  • Everyone should wear long pants and a long sleeved shirt.
  • Shoes or closed toe sandals with socks are the best for your feet.
  • Wear long sleeved shirts. Most UV protective shirts have a very tight weave which acts as an additional barrier.
  • Keep shirts tucked into pants. Tuck your child’s socks over the pant leg to close the gap. Adults can tuck pants into your boots, or tape or rubber band your pants cuffs to your boots, or wear gaiters.
  • Light colored clothing makes ticks easier to spot, so they can be brushed off before they can attach.
  • After spending time outdoors in a wooded, weedy or tall grass area be sure to VERY thoroughly check EVERYONE from head to toe for ticks. If you find any, remove them immediately using the right technique (See below). Be sure to examine your entire body for ticks (and I mean entire, folks). Remove any ticks immediately.
  • If you have access to running water, shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors
  • Many sites recommend the use of insect repellants. The  most potent – Deet – is not suitable for babies and young children. Natural baby safe repellents  are not as powerful as Deet for preventing ticks, but definitely offer some protection. Be sure to reapply natural repellants about every two hours to vulnerable parts of your baby or child’s body.

What to know and what to do if you find a tick on your child or anyone else:

How to remove a tick:

Don’t panic and just grab at the tick!!!!! A few minutes won’t make any difference!

Stay calm and do the following:

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers or a simple tick remover to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  4. Dispose of a live tick by submerging it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape. Never crush a tick with your fingers.

5. Health Canada suggests that If possible, save the tick in a zip-lock bag and record the date of the bite. If you develop symptoms of Lyme Disease in the weeks after being bitten, contact your healthcare provider right away. Bring the tick with you to your medical appointment, as it may help the doctor assess your illness.

Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not waiting for it to detach.

The key here is to maintain constant tick awareness and, if you are outdoors, check everyone for ticks including your pets, every day. Once you are indoors for the day just say “Tick check time!’ and make it as routine as having a yummy snack.

I know this is a kind of depressing topic, but as the incidence of Lyme Disease continues to grow, awareness and knowledge are key.

Being outdoors and in nature is just the best thing for everyone. Just as you practice sun safety, trail safety and water safety rules, add in “tick safety” rules and keep everyone you love, safe.

FYI:

The ticks which carry Lyme Disease are found in numerous parts of Canada as identified by Health Canada .

For those of you in the USA, here is a map of the occurrence of Lyme Disease in the USA.

But as noted by the BC Centre for Disease Control:

Ticks don’t move far by themselves but they can attach to migratory birds, and may fall off far from their original location. For this reason, it’s possible to find infected ticks in other areas than the ones listed above. Surveillance is ongoing to confirm other areas of spread.

In other words, for the sake of your own health and the health of your family, be tick aware when you are outdoors no matter where you live.

** Be sure to also read my update on this post here. I want to inform you on some of the new information I have found.

 

Judy Banfield

I’m Judy Banfield and I’m here to help you feel better about yourself as a person and more confident and secure as a parent.

In my 30+ years of working with babies, young children and parents, I have learned that valuing and treasuring and deeply knowing yourself gives you the foundation to more confidently and joyfully, love, treasure, teach and guide your children.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. You also want to be extra cautious in BC.
    BC does not screen for Lyme Disease, and in a bizarre state of delusion the BC Ministry of Health has stated that there are no cases of Lyme Disease contracted in BC (note the second sentence above).

    BC, I have heard, is the only province that does not screen for Lyme Disease.

    1. Hi Nigel,

      Thank you for your comments. Yes, BC is definitely in denial and it is very distressing, considering how awful the disease is. One of the other commentators has had professional contact with Lyme Disease sufferers and has offered to be a resource for people who need to figure out how to navigate the system. I hope my blogpost gets shared and people really start taking precautions! Judy

  2. Good article, Judy! In addition to what you have written, the tests for Lyme here in our area are inconclusive. I have worked with a few people who have Lyme and have had to have their blood sent to the States for the more comprehensive tests and the medical system here denies the validity of the stateside tests which come out positive.. while the tests here come out negative (common statement.. oh the stateside labs are “for profit”). Getting treatment here is almost impossible if not a nightmare. So your post is really important to prevent the disease. Once it the disease gets started you can almost count on the same issues that your friend who had the fundraiser had… it’s nothing short of a nightmare for the patient and the family. Should anyone need help with the process, pass their name to me and I do know a woman here who has lots of experience navigating the system because her child had Lyme (and has recovered after a few years of treatment outside our medical system)… she is open to helping…. Kudos to you for writing this!!!!!

    1. Thank you for your comments Esta. Yes, BC is unfortunately in denial about Lyme Disease, and I heard today that 5% of BC ticks carry Lyme Disease, which is actually quite a high percentage. Another commentator mentioned that BC is the only province that doesn’t screen for Lyme Disease – not a distinction to be proud of. Hopefully people will take the preventive precautions seriously and protectthemselves and their families – and lobby the government for immediate screening and treatment options in BC.

      I appreciate your offer to help people who are affected, and I will refer anyone I hear of with Lyme, to you.

      Thanks again for your comments. Judy

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