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 in 2013 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.
Update: this post was written in 2013. It’s now 2017. In the last few years, we’ve had great success balancing the ecosystem of our homestead (aka: reducing ticks and “bad bugs” and increasing the good ones) using pasture-raised chickens, turkeys, guineas and even ducks. But we don’t like to take chances, AND the occasional tick still shows up, so this post still matters!
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.
I know I’ve got to get used to them. My awesomely amazing friend Diana of the INCREDIBLE Homegrown Paleo Cookbook lives on a working farm, and she and her husband Andrew 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.
But I still want a safe, non-DEET tick repellant that works amazingly well (essential oils, even the “therapeutic grade” ones, have never once worked reliably)…
…One that doesn’t come with a warning that it will wipe out fish populations and cause birth defects and such. (Hello, Permethrin). Bonus if it works for dogs, too.
Enter Cedarcide! I was SO excited to discover that these products ACTUALLY WORK. We’ve tried most of their products, but Tick Shield is our go-to.
I’m not affiliated with the brand – although I probably should be – I just use and love it that much.
It’s safe for me, husband, toddler, and dogs.
It makes me smell like a cedar closet, but it rinses off. And it also works on other bugs. I seriously can’t recommend it highly enough. We spritz it on our feet every time we go outside, and often around any spots that ticks like to hide (behind the ears, for example).
BUT. If you discover a tick that’s already embedded, it’s a different story.
So now let’s talk about tick REMOVAL.
*Shudders.* This means the removal of ticks that are
- already ON your body (or your pooch) but not embedded or
- already embedded (*freaks out*) (*freaks out twice*)
For ticks that are already on your body or your pooch BUT NOT EMBEDDED, the solution is simple:
Keep a roll of clear packing tape in your fanny pack.
Wait, backing up: Never leave home without your fanny pack. NASCAR fanny packs are preferable. (Obviously.)
Use the tape to “grab” the creepy-crawling tick from off your skin or clothes and seal it off WITHOUT having to touch it with your bare hands.
Torture and shame the tick at will for its horrifying lifestyle choices. (Just kidding.) (Kind of.)
Grabbing the tick this way means 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 in your body:
Sadly, whenever I share this post, I get HEATED responses from people who are downright angry that I’d suggest they have been taking bad advice on tick removal for years, or that their friends, favorite websites, or doctor could have given them bad information.
I get it. I don’t like to be wrong either.
If you “do differently” and you’ve got some wisdom to share, go for it in the comments. But whatever you do, all I ask it that you keep it civil, read what I have to say, and decide whether it gets a thumbs-up from your common sense radar. I won’t approve your comment if you’re being a jerk. If you’ve done differently, you’re not being accused of anything here. Please don’t take offense.
When it comes to the information I’m sharing, you have NOTHING to lose by trying it. These instructions DO reflect the research of experts in the growing community of people suffering from tick-borne disease. Even the CDC agrees with me here, calling the bad removal strategies I list below “folklore remedies.” (See resources at the end of this post.)
Bottom line is, the recommendations I list below that I hear all too often could be downright DANGEROUS because they actually might 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. Don’t tickle it, don’t flick it, don’t bargain with it, don’t stroke it with a goosefeather.
Sure, it sounds good to have a tick back out on its own, but it’s starting to become evident that might be a HUGE mistake.
Why? Because my sources suggest that 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 likely to purge the potentially disease-containing contents of its body into your bloodstream on its way out.
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.
Summary: getting a tick to “back out on its own” is likely to be a MISTAKE.
We want to get the WHOLE thing out, I get it. But once a tick is embedded, the best way to safely remove it with the LOWEST chance of regurgitation/dumping is to PULL the whole darn thing out in one swift motion before the tick knows what’s coming.
The tick removal tools I recommend, when used properly, give you the best chance of removing the whole thing WITHOUT the risk of regurgitation.
Don’t buy the whole “regurgitation” argument? That’s fine. Do it your way. But if it sounds plausible and my sources resonate with you, try it this way. It’s no more labor-intensive, expensive, or time-consuming.
Safe removal tools
Pointy-edged tweezers are the most common tool (don’t use the flat-edged kind; use the pointy-tip or angled-tip kind, like these). I find these get all bumbly-fumbly, however, and I always seem to pull a tick off messily and incompletely when I use them.
The absolute best solution I’ve found for myself is the Ticked Off tick removal spoon. Many folks also like the Tick Key. They work on people and pets.
The Ticked Off contraption can stay on your keychain. We have one on each. It pulls the WHOLE tick off quick and clean, every time.
After removal, of course, cleanse the spot well, and if you’re concerned about Lyme or disease transmission, call your healthcare practitioner.
To help ensure ticks don’t get super-comfy and deeply embedded before you have a chance to pull them (increasing the risk of disease transmission), check yourself and your pets FREQUENTLY. And use these tips.
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), “tick tweezers are a godsend.” Find special tick tweezers here.
Jenna 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.”
Of course, in some circumstances, the tick is so deeply embedded that you can’t yank the whole thing out swiftly or easily and you end up decapitating it. GOOD NEWS: this is still probably better than any “back out on its own” strategies.
Why? Because the tick stores its bubbling cauldron of disease IN ITS BODY. Severing its head from said cauldron severs the head/body connection and thus its chances of regurgitating, and that’s better than making it “back out,” allowing it to dispense its ‘gurge on the way out.
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. But keep an eye on it, and contact your healthcare practitioner to be sure.
You can still send the body in for testing so you know what you’re dealing with, and see your healthcare practitioner for a good strategy from there, including having the tick AND yourself tested and treated preventatively.
Leave a comment below if you have knowledge to share. Please be respectful!
Check out these resources on tick removal and tick-borne disease:
Dr. Lo Radio podcast on The Lyme Diet
Advanced topics in Lyme Disease
International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society
Thanks for reading!