Ah yes, it’s tick season again, and my husband Lolo is busy removing the nasty creatures from our watch dogs.

For the dogs, the ticks are mainly a nuisance: but in some areas of the world, the risk of Lyme disease makes mothers hysterical if they find a tick on their kid.

The big question is if you should treat every tick bite with antibiotics.

A lot of this depends if you live in an area with a lot of Lyme disease, what type of tick was it, how long the tick was actually on the person, if there is allergies to antibiotics, and how upset is the mom. Deer ticks that carry Lyme disease are tiny and brown; ordinary ticks can carry other diseases, but not Lyme disease.

The risk of catching Lyme disease from a single bite is small: and may be less of a risk than the risk of getting an allergic reaction to the antibiotic.

To complicate matters, the deer tick that is the most common cause of Lyme disease is small and often overlooked, and only about 20% of Lyme disease cases have a history of removing a tick.

Often we docs diagnose Lyme disease when someone comes in with a rash like a bullseye.

But of course, Lyme disease is not the only tick bourne illness. We also have the dreaded Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, and similar fevers such as Colorado Tick fever and Ehrlicheosis and other diseases spread by the small creatures.

We saw a lot of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in Oklahoma, and if we saw a high fever without obvious cause, we treated first, since the blood test might not turn positive for one to two weeks.

The problem with RMSF is that the antibiotic is tetracycline, which we avoid in kids because it binds with calcium and can discolor budding teeth. For Lyme disease, the penicillin family is the antibiotic of choice, but other antibiotics work just as well.

But the real question is how is the best way to remove a nasty tick?

The problem is that usually when found, the tick is large and squishy, and still has his mouthpiece in your flesh.

So if you just “Pull”, the bad blood inside gets squirted back into the patient, and often the mouth piece stays behind.

So a lot of folks “smother” the critter with vaseline or kill it with kerosene or try to burn it with a cigarette, all of which hurts the patient more than the tick.

The trick is to take the mouth piece out first.

There are two methods.

One is to use tiny tweezers (or a mosquito forcep) to do the job. Grasp between mouth and stomach, and pull out gently.

Photo from CDC via Lymecare.com

Another method that we used to use in the Emergency room was to get some fine nylon thread and loop it around the head, secure the thread as a tiney loop using a “mosquito” forcep, and then pull.

This company sells a gadget that does that for you and I’m using the illustration mainly because it is easy to understand. And there are other tick removing devices that I’m sure you can purchase at your local sports shop that make removal easy for you and your pets.

But for my husband Lolo, he just pulls out his black bag and uses his old mosquito forceps and pulls. 

And to keep your kids safe, the CDC has a long list of prevention tips.

Don’t forget the insect repellent, and if they are going into wooded areas, keep the pants tucked into your boots or sock, and spray the clothing with insect repellent sprays.

As for Fido, there are shampoos, and special chemicals to stop tick and fleas. Check with your vet for advice.

Don’t let Mr. Tick stop you from enjoying the great outdoors.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket, and she writes medical essays at Hey Doc Xanga Blog.

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