By Paul M. Dake, M.D.
Q: When we were on a camping trip last week, my daughter showed me a tick on her lower leg; we tried a couple of different ways to get it off, finally succeeding with a pair of tweezers. We weren’t sure what to do next. What are the latest recommendations about this?
A: There are a number of different tick species found in Michigan, with the wood tick being by far the most numerous. Because passing infection to human beings usually requires the tick to stay attached to a person for at least 24 hours, it is important to remove a tick as soon as it is found.
There are several ways that you should NOT use to remove ticks, including using sharp forceps or other devices that would crush, puncture, or squeeze the tick’s body, as this forces the tick’s saliva out of its mouth and into the wound. Various topical substances, such as petroleum jelly and gasoline, should also be avoided, as they do not force the tick to let go. You should not apply heat with a match or hot metal to the tick, as this will also cause it to release saliva.
Any twisting or jerking movements to remove the tick should also be avoided because this usually causes the mouth parts to be twisted off and remain in the skin. The best method of removal is to grasp the tick across the front part of the head, as close to the skin as possible, with metal forceps, and tug gently away from the skin, changing the angle constantly to release the jaws one at a time, until it pops off. Then look carefully to be sure no mouth parts remain in the skin, and apply an antiseptic solution to the site. Oral antibiotics are not currently recommended after successful removal.
To learn more about this and many other health topics, visit the American Academy of Family Physicians’ website familydoctor.org, where you can click on the Search box in the upper right corner of the website, and enter your topic of interest.
I want to thank Chad B. for suggesting this topic; if you have any particular topic you would like to hear more about, please message me at firstname.lastname@example.org.