Monday, April 28, 2008

Tick Season means Lyme Disease

Well, Seekonk seems to be tick heaven as half the people living in that low lying wooded area seem to have contracted Lyme Disease. I went for a very lovely stroll through the woods and, no surprise, when I woke up early this morning before the light to get a glass of water felt an itchy sensation near my bum and when I drowsily went to scratch it noticed that little tell tale flap of tick attached to me. After unsuccessful attempts with small medical scissors to remove the tick (they only served to cut off part of its backside) I tried the other method I was most familiar with: trying to burn it off with a burnt chopstick. But when that didn't work either, I went online to find out the best method for tick removal. I found one unsubstantiated claim that rubbing soap on it encourages it to leave, so I tried it but the tick didn't respond. I then found recurring websites that stated the following:

1. Do not use petrollium jelly, nail polish or nail polish remover, soap or other ointments to get the tick bothered enough to give up its host (you). While these methods may work, they may also incite the tick to regurgitate its meal, increasing the chance of injecting you with disease, even if it hasn't been 24 hours since it became so attached to you.

2. Do not try to burn the tick out. For the same reason. The stress of being burned can cause the tick to regurgitate saliva or gut contents, besides the fact that more often than not the tick will not remove itself... and the risk of burning yourself.

3. So how DO you remove a tick? The best way is to use good old fashioned tweezers. Get as close to the skin as possible and grasp the bugger firmly and pull straight out. Avoid jerky movements or twisting the tick. A firm, steady hand is all that is needed and is the best method. Jerking the tick or twisting it will only increase the chance of having mouthparts being left attached to your skin. Two reasons for getting as close to the skin as possible: one, you'll be less likely to upset the tick, and thus incite it to regurgitation, and secondly, it will remove easier the closer to the skin you grasp it.

Alternatively, a method used by fishermen may be employed which does not risk squeezing the tick's thorax. Use 18 inches of fine weight fishing line. The line is tied in a simple overhand knot that is tightened slowly around the tick's head. If the line is pressed against the skin while being gently pulled, the knot will tighten around the tick's head. Slowly pulling the ends of the line will then dislodge the tick from the bite site with a reduced chance of leaving the head attached. This method also works with sewing thread.

4. Once tick is removed, disinfect hands and site of bite and put the tick in a plastic bag and note the date on the bag (or on a piece of paper in the bag) and place it in the freezer. If you get sick later, you'll know precisely how long its been since you were bit, and you can have the tick analyzed later to see if the tick is really the cause for your flu like symptoms.

5. Its best to remove the tick less than 24 hours after being bit as this reduces the likelihood of contracting Lyme Disease or other tick caused illnesses.

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