The Number One Rule of Tick Removal for Lyme Disease Prevention
Due to a mild winter and early spring for much of the U.S., health experts are predicting an early tick season as well that is expected to lead to an increase in the number of people and dogs infected with Lyme disease via tick bites.
Studies have shown that ticks infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, transfer Lyme disease to humans and pets reportedly 36 to 48 hours after the tick bite was initiated. Borrelia burgdorferi is a spirochete type of bacterium that is carried by deer ticks that travels through the bloodstream and establishes itself in a variety of tissues.
Infection with the bacterium leads to a multisystem inflammatory response that affects the joints, the nervous system and sometimes organ systems if treatment has been significantly delayed. A sign of an infection at the bite site can appear either as a solid red expanding rash or blotch, or as a central spot surrounded by clear skin that is in turn ringed by an expanding red rash that looks like a bull’s-eye on a target.
If Lyme disease is diagnosed and treated early it has a very high cure rate following antibiotic treatment. However, if the infection and disease progresses, it can lead to serious illness that may last for months and could potentially lead to permanent damage. One of the problems with diagnosing Lyme disease is that the early stages of infection mimic other conditions such as flu, migraine headaches, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and chronic muscle ache among other symptoms.
Another risk from tick bites include two less-common, but still serious infections— anaplasmosis and human babesiosis, which typically cause flu-like symptoms and can affect many organs and attack red and white blood cells.
However, after a day in the park, out hiking on a wooded trail, or in of the most common areas of infection—your backyard—health authorities tell us that there are two reasons why you do not need to panic when bitten by a tick:
1. Not all ticks are infected with a disease-causing bacterium.
2. Studies of infected deer ticks have shown that they begin transmitting Lyme disease an average of 36 to 48 hours after attachment.
Therefore, your chances of contracting LD are greatly reduced if you remove a tick within the first 48 hours AND remove the offending parasite properly.
According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation the following steps are the proper way to remove a tick that has latched onto your skin:
1. Using a pair of pointed precision* tweezers, grasp the tick by the head or mouthparts right where they enter the skin. DO NOT grasp the tick by the body.
2. Without jerking, pull firmly and steadily directly outward. DO NOT twist the tick out or apply petroleum jelly, a hot match, alcohol or any other irritant to the tick in an attempt to get it to back out.
3. Place the tick in a vial or jar of alcohol to kill it (DO NOT kill it by squeezing it between your thumbnails—you could expose yourself to the bacterium by doing this).
4. Clean the bite wound with disinfectant.
5. Monitor the site of the bite for the appearance of a rash beginning 3 to 30 days after the bite. At the same time, learn about the other early symptoms of Lyme disease and watch to see if they appear in about the same timeframe. If a rash or other early symptoms develop, see a physician immediately.
*Keep in mind that certain types of fine-pointed tweezers, especially those that are etched, or rasped, at the tips, may not be effective in removing nymphal deer ticks. Choose unrasped fine-pointed tweezers whose tips align tightly when pressed firmly together.
And finally, the number one rule of tick removal for Lyme disease prevention: make friends with someone who is not squeamish about sharing tick inspection and removal duties. Oftentimes a tick latches onto areas of the body that are not only hard to see, but difficult to perform proper de-ticking as outlined by the American Lyme Disease Foundation. However, if you do remove your tick by yourself and it happens that the head remains embedded in your skin, then you should go to a clinic right away so that a physician can remove the tick head safely.
Follow this link for an article about an antibiotic ointment that prevents Lyme disease after a tick bite.
Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia
Reference: American Lyme Disease Foundation