I was grumpy all morning after realizing that my dog was out of tick repellent. Really grumpy. After all, on the East Coast of the United States, we are seeing ticks galore. All month long, parents have been bringing us presents such as the one pictured here. Yes, that is a tick you see nicely trapped in tape. Sometimes when parents bring us a tick, it’s still clinging to the child and they ask us to remove it. To save you a trip, here is a quick refresher on how to pluck the bugs off:
1. Take a deep breath and pretend that it’s just a speck of lint—not an ugly critter with a bloated stomach and writhing legs.
2. Use tweezers and firmly clasp the head. If the tick is tiny, you will end up grabbing the entire body.
3. Pull the tick straight up and off. Hint: Press down on the skin on either side of the tick so that the skin doesn’t pull up when you pull the tick off. This lessens any pinching sensation your child may feel.
Don’t try to burn a tick off—you’ll just burn your child’s skin. Suffocation techniques such as covering a tick with petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or nail polish are not very effective, allow the tick to stay on for a longer period of time, and may cause the tick to become slippery and difficult to grasp.
After removal, if the tick’s head is left behind, don’t go digging for it. Just like a tiny splinter, your skin will naturally try to expel it. Soaking the area in warm water will help the process along. Don’t worry about disease transmission: there is not any disease stuck in a head.
After a tick is off, wash the skin as you would any cut to prevent a skin infection. A small, minimally tender, pimple like bump is a common reaction which may be present for a few days. This is an irritation response of the skin. If the tick was a deer tick (typically the size of a poppy or sesame seed), watch for the rash of Lyme disease that appears as a flat, pink, round patch about a week later. The patch may clear in the center and grows to at least two and a-half inches across.
My daughter told me a girl at her lunch table had a tick on her the other day. None of the kids could pick it off and the girl sat screaming until the lunch lady came over to help her. May be you’ll be the lucky adult called over to help next time.
Just remember…pretend it’s a speck of lint.
Naline Lai, MD with Julie Kardos, MD
©2013, 2015 Two Peds in a Pod®