tick prevention

The first level of fighting Lyme disease is without question prevention.

tick check

The next most important step in fighting Lyme is to perform a tick check whenever returning from outdoor activities.

tick removal

And finally, proper tick removal is a vitally important step for preventing Lyme or any other tickborne illnesses.

 

As my mom would so often say when I was young: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And with regard to tickborne diseases, there is no better advice. Preventing oneself from contracting all of the diseases transmitted by ticks is so much more effective than having to deal with them once a person is ill.

And speaking of an ounce of prevention, I discussed several ways to avoid being bitten in a previous post, and so I won’t belabor the point here. The important points that I would like to make in this post are the needs for tick checks and how to properly remove ticks if they become embedded in the skin.

Since learning that may daughter, Kathleen, had Lyme disease, one of my biggest regrets is not having made certain that Mommy performed a tick check whenever she returned from summer camp. Finding and removing the tick most certainly would have precluded all of the hardships and heartaches that followed.

For parents and pet owners it is critical that all domesticated creatures (i.e., pets, children and husband’s 🙂 ) be checked for ticks after they have been outdoors. And every inch of any given body should be inspected because ticks can — and do! — go anywhere.

Nymphs, or baby ticks, are especially difficult to locate because they are approximately the size of a poppy seed. It is often useful to use a magnifying glass to differentiate between a tick or a freckle; and where hair or fur is involved, the use of a fine-toothed comb is a must. When checking one’s own body the use of a good mirror will also come in handy.

If a tick is found to be embedded in the skin it then becomes crucial that it be removed quickly and in its entirety. When I was a kid I remember watching a friend’s mom remove a tick from the scalp of his younger brother with a cigarette. She successfully burned the tick as well as the poor kid’s head. Since then, I have learned that killing ticks in such a manner is not only painful to the patient, it does not mean that all of the parts of the tick are properly removed.

Another set of folk remedies for removing ticks is to either try to smother it with petroleum jelly, thus causing it to suffocate, or freeze it off. As the theory goes, with either method, the tick, in an effort to survive, will back out of the skin and drop off. But these methods usually have the opposite effect, whereby the tick will either hold-on tighter or burrow deeper into the skin and, therefore, deposit more of its disease-carrying secretions into the wound, which increases the likelihood of infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the proper way to remove a tick is as follows:

How to remove a tick

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers 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 or soap and water.
  4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.

With the exception of one critical point, I agree with the CDC’s recommendations. The one point that I would dispute, however, is with the idea that removed ticks should be disposed. Personally, I believe that the tick should be saved so that it can be tested for microorganisms, especially if the host later becomes ill. Once removed, the tick can be placed in alcohol to ensure that it is killed and then stored in a jar or in a zippered storage bag. Personally, I once saved a tick that I removed from the back of my neck by placing it in cellophane tape and then placing in a plastic snack bag with a zipper.

One point to strongly note is that a tick should never be crushed or squeezed because doing so can force the contents of its stomach (which houses the microorganisms) into the wound, therefore increasing the likelihood of infection.

Finally, once a tick is removed it is critical to properly clean the wound with soap and water and/or rubbing alcohol. One trick offered by Stephen Buhner is to apply Andrographis tincture to the wound. In his book “Healing Lyme,” Mr. Buhner writes: “We have seen very good results in preventing Lyme infection if Andrographis tincture is applied to the tick bite as soon as the tick is removed.”[1]Stephen Harrod Buhner, “Healing Lyme, Natural Healing of Lyme Borreliosis and the Coinfections Chlamydia and Spotted Fever Rickettsioses,” SECOND EDITION (Raven Press, 2015), 189.

With a little luck and a lot of preventative care, no individual will have to worry about treating themselves or a loved ones (including pets) for Lyme disease. However, if it is believed that you or a loved one has been infected then do not hesitate to seek proper medical care.

 

Note: No content on this website should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from a doctor or other qualified clinician.

References

References
1 Stephen Harrod Buhner, “Healing Lyme, Natural Healing of Lyme Borreliosis and the Coinfections Chlamydia and Spotted Fever Rickettsioses,” SECOND EDITION (Raven Press, 2015), 189.