Your Health

How to remove a tick

If you find a tick attached to your body, you can get it removed by a health-care provider or remove it yourself. To remove an attached tick:

Grasp the tick with tweezers as close to the skin as possible.

Gently pull the tick straight away from you until it releases its hold. Pulling the tick out too quickly may tear the body from the mouth, leaving the mouth still in the skin. If this happens, you can try removing the embedded mouthparts with a sterile needle, in the way you would remove a splinter, or you can get help from your health-care provider.

Do not twist the tick as you pull, and try not to squeeze its body. Squeezing or crushing the tick could force infected fluids from the tick into the site of the bite.

After you have removed the tick, thoroughly wash your hands and the bite area with soap and water. Put an antiseptic such as rubbing alcohol on the area where you were bitten.

Using a pair of tweezers to remove a tick.

Using a pair of tweezers to remove a tick.

Save the tick in case you later start having symptoms of disease and need to know what kind of tick bit you. Put the tick in a clean, dry jar, small plastic bag, or other sealed container and keep it in the freezer. Identification of the tick may help your provider diagnose and treat your symptoms. If you do not have any symptoms of disease after one month, you can discard the tick.

The usual reaction to a tick bite is nothing more than a bump on your skin that improves within a few days.

Call your health-care provider if:

  • A tick has bitten you and you think the tick may be a blacklegged tick.
  • You develop a bull's-eye rash or a rash with tiny purple or red spots.
  • The area of the bite becomes more swollen or painful or drains pus, or you see red streaks spreading from the wound.
  • You have flu-like symptoms after a bite such as fever, headache, muscle aches, joint pain or swelling, and a general feeling of illness.

How can I prevent tick bites?

Be aware of the areas where ticks live. Do not walk, camp, or hunt in the woods in tick-infested areas without precautions.

In areas of thick underbrush, try to stay near the centre of trails.

When you are outdoors, wear long-sleeved shirts tucked into your pants. Wear your pants tucked into your socks or boot tops if possible. A hat may help, too. Wearing light-coloured clothing may make it easier to spot a small tick before it reaches your skin and bites.

Use approved tick repellents on exposed skin and clothing. Do not use more than recommended in the repellent directions. Do not put repellent on open wounds or rashes. Wash the spray off your hands. Be careful with children because the repellents can make them ill.

Treat household pets for ticks and fleas. Check pets after they have been outdoors.

Brush off clothing and pets before entering the house. After you have been outdoors, undress and check your body for ticks. They usually crawl around for several hours before biting. Check your clothes, too. Wash them right away to remove any ticks.

Shower and shampoo after your outing.

Inspect any gear you have carried outdoors. If you spend much time hiking, you may want to include a pair of tick tweezers in your first-aid kit. The tweezers are available at many sporting goods stores.

Source: Health Links - Info Santé

Wave: March / April 2015

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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