Ticks are tiny blood-sucking parasites often found in or around a humid and wooded area. Due to their small size, ticks can easily be overlooked and in some cases, may be too small to be seen altogether. Although they may seem benign, certain species of ticks carry and are able to transmit diseases to other creatures, including humans. As such, it is important to take precautions against ticks and the diseases they host.

To avoid a tick bite, one should take care not to walk through vegetation, where ticks often lie waiting for their host to brush against them. For instance, walk around bushes instead of trying to cut through them. The use of repellents containing either DEET or permethrin, as well as wearing long and light-colored clothing, can also help to minimize the chances of a tick bite. Tuck your pants into your socks to help prevent ticks from crawling up your leg or in your socks. After returning from a possibly tick-infested area, always check to make certain you and any companion (furry or not) are tick-free. Be sure to search everywhere, including under the armpits, in the hair, and behind the ears.

Though these precautions help to minimize the possibility of a tick bite, it is not foolproof. In the event that your inspection does reveal a tick, do not panic. The tick can be removed and killed by following these simple steps:

1. Disinfect the site of the tick bite

2. Using a fine-tipped (pointy) pair of tweezers, carefully grasp the tick above its head as close to the skin surface as possible
Make sure to protect your fingers with latex gloves or a paper towel to avoid any further skin contact with the tick. Always try to avoid handling a tick with your bare hands.

3. Slowly but firmly, pull the tick upwards in a steady motion from the site
Do not twist or jerk the tick as this may cause its mouth to break off and remain attached to the skin even as its body is removed.

4. Disinfect the area of the bite once more.

5. Dispose of the tick’s body
Avoid crushing or puncturing the tick’s body as the fluid it holds may contain contagious pathogens. You can use the tweezers to place the tick in the bag if you would like to send it out to be tested or identified. Otherwise, the tick may be thrown away with the household trash.

6. Carefully watch for possible symptoms of an infection
Signs of a possible infection include but are not limited to a rash (in particular, a rash resembling a bulls-eye is associated with Lyme disease), fever, nausea, chills, severe headaches, and, in adults, photo-sensitivity. A tick-borne infection may present itself with a vast array of symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose.

If, for any reason, the tick’s body was punctured or crushed, wash and disinfect any area that came into contact with the body fluid. Rubbing alcohol or a mixture of warm water and detergent are both good options to choose from as a disinfectant. Even if the tick was attached to you, do not panic. In some cases, ticks must stay attached to their host for hours in order to transmit a disease.

So long as the proper precautions and steps are taken, the risk of a tick bite and any subsequent tick-borne illness can be minimized and a person is free to enjoy their time outdoors.

References: Tick Removal at cdc.gov

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