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In case you missed the bulletin, the news flash, or the sky-writing, I’m afraid of ticks. Everybody’s sick of hearing about it.
So I thought I’d talk about it s’more. Yay!
Since moving to the country and kick-starting
my our dreams of homestead-livin’ I’ve had to contend with a few difficult realities:
One: the internet is slow.
Two: the internet is slow.
Three: there are ticks. Everywhere.
This has been an adventure, to say the least. While I love getting dirty, muck-covered and dusty; and I don’t mind spiders, flies or most creepy-crawlies, ticks are the evil-est of all evils.
My fear is slightly humorous given my affinity for Vampire fiction. (Who else looooerrrrvs Vampire Diaries?)
I know I’ve got to get used to them. My awesomely amazing friend Diana of Radiance Nutritional Therapy, who lives on a farm, and her husband Andrew, who runs the farm, are two people I can always trust to gently let me know that I’m being an idiot and need to grow a pair, stat.
Love those guys.
I’m working on a post for NATURAL outdoor tick and pest control, including the natural remedies I’ve found effective, but today I’m talkin’ bout tick REMOVAL.
*Shudders.* This means the removal of ticks that are
- already ON your person (or your pooch) but not embedded or
- already embedded (*freaks out*) (*freaks out twice*)
For ticks that are already on your person or your pooch BUT NOT EMBEDDED, the solution is simple:
Keep a roll of clear packing tape in your fanny pack. Never leave home without your fanny pack. (Obviously.)
Use the tape to “grab” the tick and seal it off without touching it with your bare hands. Torture and shame the tick at will for its horrifying lifestyle choices. (Just kidding.) (Kind of.)
Another benefit to grabbing the tick this way is that you can visually evaluate it for type, then keep it for your veterinarian or doctor to evaluate or test for disease if you live in particularly tick-ridden areas where tick-borne diseases are common.
Update: Corah, a facebook reader, had this to say: “One important thing as well is to save the tick! Put it in a plastic bag with some grass and a moist cotton ball. Most state run universities have what’s called a medical entomology department where you can send the tick to be tested. They WANT you to send it in!”
Now, with regards to ticks that are already EMBEDDED on your person:
I’ve spent the last month researching, Googling, and mining Lyme disease websites for wisdom on this topic (see the end of this post for a few helpful sources), and I’ve found that even the smarty-pantsiest of smarty-pants people don’t know how to remove a tick the right way. They have it ALL. WRONG. In fact, most of the recommendations I’ve heard could be downright DANGEROUS because they actually ENABLE the potential spreading of tick-borne disease.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE:
-NEVER put lard, coconut oil, petroleum jelly, soap, hydrogen peroxide or any other salve, liquid or solution or item on the tick to make it “back out on its own.”
-NEVER burn its ticky tush with a match so it will “back out on its own” (summary of why)
-NEVER DO ANY OTHER THING INTENDED TO MAKE THE TICK BACK OUT ON ITS OWN.
Sure, it sounds good to have a tick back out of its own volition, but it’s a HUGE mistake. Why? Because ANY TIME a tick backs out – whether gently, of its own volition OR at your urging or due to suffocation or anything you’ve rubbed into its little behind, THE TICK IS LIABLE TO PURGE THE POTENTIALLY DISEASE-CONTAINING CONTENTS OF ITS BODY INTO YOUR BLOODSTREAM.
The act of “backing out” might as well mean “dumping out.” And with the reports of tick-borne diseases seeming to increase every year, it’s important to do everything you can to PREVENT the dumping.
This is what I’ve learned from all my Lyme-specialist stalking. Getting a tick to “back out on its own” is a MISTAKE.
We want to get the WHOLE thing out, I get it. But once a tick is embedded, the only way to safely remove it with the LOWEST chance of regurgitation/dumping is to either
- PULL the whole thing out in one swift motion or, if you must,
- go medieval on it. Off with its head. Guillotine-style. (No novocaine.)
(Okay, so I really just wanted to reference the guillotine scene in Mel Brooks’ History of the World right there. In reality…slicing and dicing isn’t your goal. It’s best to pull the whole thing out IF YOU CAN.)
The tick removal tools I recommend, when used properly, give you the best chance of removing the whole thing WITHOUT the risk of regurg. If you do decapitate the tick, however, that’s still far better than any “back out on its own” strategies.
If you end up severing the tick in your attempts to remove it, and the tick’s head is still embedded despite your best efforts using the contraptions I list below, your body’s natural process of inflammation should work the head out. If not, you can go back in and pull the severed head out, or – recommended – see your healthcare practitioner for a good strategy from there, including having the tick AND yourself tested.
Just remember: the tick stores its bubbling cauldron of disease IN ITS BODY. So don’t let it “back out,” dispensing its regurg on the way out.
Tweezers get all bumbly-fumbly, and I always seem to pull a tick off messily and incompletely when I use them. If you do use tweezers, don’t use the flat-edged kind; use the pointy-tip or angled-tip kind, like these. The absolute best solution I’ve found for myself is the Ticked Off tick removal spoon (find it here). Many folks also like the Tick Key (find that here). They work on people and pets.
The Ticked Off contraption can stay on your keychain. We have one on each. It snaps that tick off quick and clean, every time.
After removal, rub the spot with some neem oil. Take that, ticks.
To help ensure ticks don’t get super-comfy and deeply embedded before you have a chance to behead them, check yourself and your pets FREQUENTLY. And use these tips (thanks, commenter Melissa)!
UPDATE: Jenna, a facebook reader, let me know that when it comes to the TEENY-TINY ticks like Deer ticks (we mostly have larger dog ticks and lone star ticks), these “tick tweezers (click here) are a godsend. Here’s what she said:
“…[for deer ticks] his thing is the best thing on the market. Our pediatrician recommended it to us after we had tons of ticks on our kids last year. … This one is spring loaded so it holds the tick but not tight enough to squeeze it or break it if my kid moves suddenly … Then you just twist and it takes the tick right off. Then you stick it in tape. Done.”
UPDATE: check out this podcast from Dr. Lo Radio on the Lyme Diet.
Leave a comment below if you know somethin’ I don’t. Readers: be sure to browse the comments! This is a DUPER important topic! (Yes, I said DUPER.)
Soon I’ll write about natural tick control, including the multi-pronged NATURAL approach we’ve taken for pooch, livestock, house and yard. Stay tuned!
Thanks for reading!