For the record, parasites, ticks, in particular, do nothing beneficial for you. They are 8-legged bloodsuckers and hitchhikers that don’t provide ass, gas, or grass as the truck stop bumper sticker would request since no one rides for free. They are the worst and nothing can give you a quicker pucker factor or make your heart skip a beat faster than feeling the unmistakable bump where you didn’t have one before.
Ticks are small but they can pack a wallop to your health and well-being. Even the thought of ticks gets some folks squirmish and feeling around their pant cuffs and neckline. As much as we despise these creatures, we know they are part of the great outdoors we love. We must learn to keep them off us with lower concentrated DEET insect repellent and permethrin for our clothes. We must also know what to do when we get one on us. Also for that record, getting sick from not removing a tick properly can be just as much your fault for screwing up as it is the tick’s for latching onto you.
The first step in recognizing you have a tick problem is identifying them on your person. This isn’t always the easiest job considering the size of the ticks in their adult phase and it is even more difficult locating nymphs on your skin. Considering we can’t see the back of our neck without a couple of mirrors, it helps to pack two (perhaps the inside of your sighting compass and your signal mirror) or you’ll need a buddy to ensure you’re tick-free. Since some of those ticks are really small, this may mean getting really really close.
According to the Wilderness Medical Society guidelines, you must remove ticks within a 36-hour window of them latching on. This means daily checks can help prevent the spread of Lyme Disease. If you didn’t notice that mole before, take a better look with a brighter light if you have to. Assume if you are in tick country, you have them on you, and don’t call it a night until you perform this task.
Once the initial shock of finding a tick subsides, you need to remove it properly. In haste, many ticks get squeezed and yanked off, speeding up the transmission of tick-borne diseases. Rather than rushing, take your time to gather a good set of fine tweezers and some rubbing antibiotic ointment. We personally like the Silver Gripper Tweezers with an almost sharpened point. Don’t use the tweezers on the body of the tick but rather as deep down on the head where you can get a purchase. Another popular option for tick removal are “Tick Keys” with a tapered slot that fits over the tick’s body and pulls from the head. Removing ticks will vary in difficulty depending on how deeply the tick is embedded.
What doesn’t change is the direction of pull. Use steady pressure and do not twist the tick. There is a chance the tick will puke its disease-filled guts into you. Something that is not likely if you use the good technique but can happen regardless is the possibility of removing only part of the tick. This is where the sharpened points of the tweezers or a needle come in handy. Sterilize your tool and attempt to lift the head from under the skin.
Again, if you do a thorough sweep each day, you will avoid having one attach itself deeply in the skin. Once you remove the tick, set it aside to send it off for testing. Wipe down the area where the tick was embedded with soap and water before applying antibiotic ointment. This will help prevent any infection where the tick was embedded. Monitor the areas (if you have to pull off more than one tick) for redness or the distinctive “bullseye” indicating infection. Some will go so far as tracing any existing red mark with a pen or marker or taking a photo of it next to something of known size reference like a coin.
he CDC recommends you send off any ticks found embedded on you to a lab for testing. An internet search will reveal plenty of options for this. You cannot simply look at a tick and know if it is a carrier for any diseases or if it doesn’t. If you have a small zip-lock bag or poor man’s laminating (two pieces of packaging tape), you can mail it in and wait for the results. The lab will test the tick and inform you if it was infected. At that point you can count your blessings or consult your doctor for some strong antibiotics and additional medical treatment.
Believe it or not, the process of sending a tick off for testing and receiving results can actually be faster than letting symptoms show up and then acting on them. Ticks can affect people in different ways from muscular aches, neurological problems, and even a red-meat “allergy”. Any departure from your normal health should be taken seriously and not ignored.
Perhaps the greatest sense of satisfaction comes from pulling ticks off of your clothing before they can find their way into your skin. When you pull them off, you can decide their fate and should decide violence, nothing is better than popping them with a lighter. Crushing with a fingernail or rock is another fitting end and bisecting them with a knife is yet another. Whatever you do, be thankful you found them early. Also, if you found one, look again because where there is one, there are likely two or more. Ticks are a serious problem and one we can’t overlook both literally and figuratively.