Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tick Removal - Not for the Squemish

This morning I spent about twenty minutes in the garden harvesting greens for my co-workers who donated the most for the MS Bikeathon Tour of the Vineyard this past May. They get a portion of whatever is currently coming out of the garden for their generosity. Unfortunately I didn't do a tick check after I came back inside. Laziness mixed with a desire to finish getting everything rinsed and spun dry won out over habit. When I was getting ready for Gabe's bath this evening I noticed a large red spot on my leg with a nice black tick in the middle. In this case another female deer tick. Since it was already deeply embedded I figured I might as well document it for a How-to on tick removal.

These are my disection tweezers from my college anatomy class. They have a very fine point as you can see by comparing them to the hairs on my leg. I always try to use these when removing ticks as they let me get as close to the mouth as possible. I push them deeply into my skin to the point where it hurts badly so I can get as close to the tip of the tick's head as possible.

I then pull away with gentle steady pressure. I do not twist or yank! Looking at this picture zoomed in at full detail I could see that the tick was ever so slightly engorged. I was out in the garden at 9am and removed her at 7pm. Considering the time it'd take a tick to crawl up my leg I would guess it didn't bite until around 10am. In any case it was attached at most for ten hours which is outside what I would consider the safe bite time. In theory you have 12-24 hours before they will transmit lyme's disease, but anytime they have some amount of engorgement is dangerous according to some.

The tick was very deeply embedded and I couldn't quite get all the way down to the jaws. After removal I still has some of the tick's mouth pieces left behind. With a clearer view I grabbed a bunch of skin with the tweezers and pulled like the dickens.

I ended up minus a chunk of skn, but the mouth parts were gone as well. I'm going to be keeping a very close eye on the bite site for the next several days, and I'll be checking for any of the multiple symptoms. If any show up its a strong course of antibiotics for me! I've had one other tick on for about this long before and nothing came of it so I'm hopeful. The site was very irritated but is already looking much better just a couple hours after the tick was removed. Wish me luck!


Pam J. said...

I will probably bookmark this post and hope I don't need to refer to it. I've found 2 deer ticks on my arm this week alone, neither had bitten in yet. They are so tiny that they're easy to miss. I have a love-hate relationship with the deer who give me these ticks, but I have only a hate-hate relationship with ticks. Wish it were not so, but oh well.

C4 said...

If I had followed my routine I would have found this one before it bit me. I'm going to be much more careful for a while now until I get lazy and screw up again. So glad to hear you found yours pre-bite and I hope you never have to reference this post! :)

new york city garden said...

Hey guys,

everything I've heard from locals here in CT is that you should save the tick and get IT tested for the Lyme spirochetes because testing of yourself is unreliable. I suppose its too late?

new york city garden said...

Also, Do you mind if I link to this post for its great how-to info?

C4 said...


Feel free to link through any time you want. I appreciate that you find the information useful. It makes me feel less silly about taking the time to document the removal.

In Massachusetts you have to send off ticks to private labs and I wasn't going to pay $65 to $75 for an inconclusive test. The tests on ticks aren't perfect and even if they are positive it doesn't mean I will be infected. Even more dangerous is a false negative;) I'm just closely watching the bite site and my condition for any sign of symptoms.


Cara'boutYou said...

Terrific documentation. Thank you! My children's doctor and our local pharmacist have recommended rotation a soapy cotton ball counter clock wise on a tick as a way to get the tick out whole. Although tweezers are the conventional way that is recommended by government sources, I'm going to try the soap method first next time because a.) it works and b.) I'm not convinced that soap stresses the tick more than using tweezers since, like you and I experienced, the tick often breaks with tweezers.
See more about what lead me to this conclusion under Tick Talk at