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Ticked Off

Claim:   Swabbing ticks with liquid soap is a recommended method for removing them.

FALSE

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, 2006]

A School Nurse has written the info below — good enough to share — And it really works!!

"I had a pediatrician tell me what she believes is the best way to remove a tick. This is great, because it works in those places where it's some times difficult to get to with tweezers: between toes, in the middle of a head full of dark hair, etc.

Apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball. Cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball and swab it for a few seconds (15-20), the tick will come out on it's own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift it away.

This technique has worked every time I've used it (and that was frequently), and it's much less traumatic for the patient and easier for me.

Unless someone is allergic to soap, I can't see that this would be damaging in any way. I even had my doctor's wife call me for advice because she had one stuck to her back and she couldn't reach it with tweezers. She used this method and immediately called me back to say, 'It worked!'"

 

Origins:   In addition to their being repulsive-looking bugs that survive by latching onto warm-blooded victims to suck blood from them, there is another reason to regard ticks with horror: they can deliver a deadly payload of disease to those they are making a meal of. These arachnids feed by burrowing their heads into skin, a method that introduces their body fluids into their victims. If those fluids are disease-laden, those microbes will be passed to the ones being dined upon. However, it generally takes at least 12 to 24 hours of feeding before an infected tick can spread disease to its host, so speedy removal of these parasites is therefore key to avoiding tick-borne illness, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichia.

Although the Tick e-mail reproduced above began circulating on the Internet in May 2006, the advice it attempts to impart is far older. Household lore is replete with tick removal suggestions that involve covering or coating the embedded arachnid with a substance it will find objectionable. Other long-lived suggestions include touching a lit match or hot needle to the tick's rear and tickling its underside in an effort to persuade it to release its bite.

However, those in the know about tick removal warn against these home remedies. Countermeasures of such nature don't always work to encourage ticks to detach from skin, and even if they do seemingly aid the process of removing the critters, they may also make matters worse by stimulating the creatures to release additional saliva or regurgitate their gut contents, acts that increase the chance of its transmitting a pathogen to its host. As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises:
Avoid folklore remedies such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible — not wait for it to detach.
The recommended procedure for removing ticks is:
  • With tweezers, grasp the parasite close to the skin and pull it straight out.
  • If you must use your fingers rather than tweezers for this operation, cover them with a tissue during the procedure and wash them after the tick has been dispatched.
  • Do not twist or jerk the tick; this could cause the creature's head to separate from its body, leaving its mouthparts lodged in your skin.
  • Wash the bite with antiseptic and place the tick inside a plastic container marked with the date in case it is later needed for verification of illness.
To reduce your chances of becoming a tick's dinner:
  • Avoid tick-prone areas whenever possible.
  • When in areas where ticks may be present, wear clothing that covers the arms and legs, with cuffs fastened and pants tucked into boots and socks.
  • Use a tick repellent that contains DEET and reapply it every 1-2 hours for maximum protection.
After any outdoor excursion into areas where ticks are commonly found, adults should check themselves and their children. Your four-legged friends should be checked for ticks too, because dogs and cats can also be felled by the diseases spread by these blood-sucking creatures.

Barbara "keep the louse out of the house" Mikkelson

Additional information:
    CDC on Tick Removal   Tick Removal
  (Centers for Disease Control)
    FDA on Tick Removal   How to Remove a Tick
  (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
Last updated:   1 May 2012

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Sources:

    Fite, Amanda.   "Once Bitten; Summer Pests Pack More Than an Itch."
    Tulsa World.   25 July 2001.

    The Washington Post.   "Tick Bites."
    23 July 2002   (p. F2).