How to remove a tick and how to identify them along with other information you need to stay safe in the woods or garden this summer. Welcome to Tick Talk.
Not just a disgusting, gross, parasitic nuisance, ticks can spread everything from the potentially deadly Lyme disease to the almost as alarming, red meat allergy! The faster you get the tick removed the better so time is of the essence.
Tick season is here and with May being Lyme Disease Awareness month, and me being terrified of getting Lyme Disease, I thought now is the perfect time to talk ticks. How to properly remove a tick (barf) and how to identify dangerous ticks.
We may not have poisonous snakes and spiders here in Ontario, Canada but we do have ticks that can kill you or make you allergic to hamburgers. Seriously. There's always something.
Last year my sister Pink Tool Belt was in the shower when her hand ran over a little bump on her leg. Soap and water running down her face, still bleary eyed from sleep and a lack of contact lenses, she could barely make out a dark dot.
Looking closer what she saw was a tangle of legs sticking out of her skin. Just legs. Only legs. The rest of the insect was embedded deep into her flesh. It was a tick.
The rest of the story is too long to tell so just picture an I Love Lucy episode where Lucy is a blonde and Ethel is an Urgent Care doctor with a knife. Yes. She had to have the tick cut out of her at the hospital.
That episode is what led me to immediately order a tick removal tool from Amazon a few years ago and I've used it TOO MANY TIMES since then.
The Tick Ease kit I got a few years ago isn't available anymore but this tick removal kit has the same tools.
It's not a tick key, but one that's meant for removing ticks from humans. The tick keys are actually meant for removing ticks from pets but can work on humans too.
Which is a good thing. Because this tick embedded itself into this human in 2019. It was the first of many ticks I've had to remove over the past few years.
I was clearing some weeds from the back of my garden plot that backs onto conservation area. It's pretty much tick Narnia. Long grassy areas populated with all manner of wildlife; ticks jumping on and off of them willy nilly. They're awful little blood craving heathens.
So when a fellow gardener stopped to say hi and then told me to turn around I immediately knew it was one of two problems. Either my hair was messy or - I had a tick.
My hair was perfect as always so I knew deep down he was going to tell me I had a tick.
Myself, my friends Serena and Glen all walked off in different directions trying to find something we could remove the tick with. I knew you could cut a V into a plastic straw and use that to remove a tick but I didn't happen to have a plastic straw at the garden.
In fact we had nothing at the garden for removing ticks even though it was next on our "to-do" list for the garden. Putting a pair of tweezers in the shed and identification signs around the garden.
We collectively decided to caravan to my house where my new tick removal tool was waiting to be tested. Serena lugged out the massive Tick Identification sign she was about to install at the garden and we identified the tick on my neck as a dog tick. Not the kind that can give you Lyme disease. But still.
Table of Contents
Ticks & Disease
Lyme disease is the most common illness associated with ticks but it isn't the only one. Ticks carry a variety of disease.
- Dog tick - Tularemia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Black Legged tick (Deer tick) - Lyme Disease
- Lone Star Tick - Tularemia, Alpha-Gal allergy (life long allergy to red meat)
Someone who gardens with me was bit by a Lone Star Tick over a decade ago in the U.S. and developed an allergy to red meat afterwards. He is still allergic to red meat.
Lone Star ticks have recently been found in my province of Ontario in Canada.
When you compare it to the chart below you can see quite clearly that the tick that was on me, was an adult male, American Dog Tick.
Dog Tick VS Deer Tick (blacklegged tick)
- All ticks have 8 legs.
- Nymph deer ticks are the size of poppyseeds and adult deer ticks are the size of sesame seeds.
- Nymph dog ticks are much larger and quite noticeable. At least twice the size of a deer tick.
- Is the hard shield on its back solid or patterned? Only a deer tick has a solid coloured shield.
- If the tick is engorged (gross on SO many levels) a deer tick will appear reddish brown while other ticks will appear a green tinted grey.
How to Prevent Tick Bites
- Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants. Tuck your pants into your socks. Not realistic for the middle of summer? Yeah, I know.
- Use an insect repellant containing 30% DEET like Off Deep Woods. Not into deadly sprays that eat through your clothing?
- Use an insect repellant containing 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus like Repel.* (this was reviewed by Consumer Reports as being as effective as DEET.
- Avoid or be very cautious around long grasses and weeds. Ticks stand on the ends of grasses waiting to drop onto any host walking past.
- After being in grassy, wooded areas check yourself and others right away for ticks. Once you're home and in the shower check yourself again.
*Oil of lemon eucalyptus is NOT an essential oil. You cannot go and buy a lemon or eucalyptus essential oil and expect it to work. All essential oils failed testing as insect repellents.
- Tick bites don't hurt. You won't feel it at all.
- A tick can go 2 YEARS without feeding. So when it sees YOU? It's pretty determined to get on you and start feeding FAST.
- In many (but not all) cases of Lyme Disease from a tick bite, a rash will emanate in a circle from the bite location.
- A tick bite bite will not itch or hurt.
- Removing a tick within 24 hours will help prevent the spread of disease to you.
- Petroleum Jelly will suffocate a tick. This is NOT true.
- Isopropyl Alcohol will cause the tick to let go of the skin. This is NOT true.
- Burning a tick with a hot match will cause it to pull out. This is NOT true.
All of the above methods are scientifically proven to be ineffective. You can read more here.
The funny thing is, when I was clearing the weeds I was constantly checking my legs and arms for ticks. I never even thought that one would appear on my neck. But as it turns out that's a pretty popular place for a tick to show up. Your neck, scalp, hairline or even between your toes.
How I deal with tick bites
Since this initial tick, I've found at least 4 on me every year. Some have been dog ticks and some have been the more dangerous deer ticks.
- After removing the tick I drop it into a plastic container and stick it in the freezer.
- I then clean the site with isopropyl alcohol.
- I monitor the area daily for a month to watch for the telltale bulls eye rash that often forms after being bit by a tick carrying Lyme disease bacteria.
When I first published this post when I got my first tick bite a few years ago I was taken aback by the amount of Lyme disease stories in the comments. Have you been ticked this or any other year? Lemme know.
This marks the end of our Tick Talk.
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