Part 3 of tick series: what to do if you’re bitten

In Southwest Farm Press

by Leilana McKindra, Oklahoma State University

Ticks are expected to be troublesome this summer, and that means it is important to be familiar with preventive measures as well as what to do if someone is bitten.

The most effective front line defense against ticks is a repellant containing DEET, but no repellant is 100 percent effective. In the event one – or a few – ticks slip past the barrier of protection, proper first aid involves a pair of tweezers.

“When you find an attached tick, use tweezers to grasp and pull it out with slow and steady pressure or use tick removal devices that do not twist to remove the tick. If tweezers aren’t available, adult ticks can be pulled out by hand with slow steady force. Smaller ticks, such as seed ticks or nymphs, should be pulled out with tweezers,” said Justin Talley, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock entomologist. “Do not yank the tick out and do not put any kind of substance or liquid such as Vaseline, bleach or alcohol on the tick.”

Proper disposal

Once a tick has been removed, there are several options for disposing of it safely. It can be washed down the drain or sealed in a plastic bag that is then put in the garbage.

“The important thing is to dispose of ticks properly so you’re not just throwing them out on your property, because even if you squeeze some of the blood out, those ticks can survive and lay eggs,” Talley said.

Because Oklahoma is anticipating a heavy tick season this year, there also is increased concern regarding tick-borne illnesses such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Bourbon Virus or Heartland Virus.

Ag Workers at Risk

“Anyone who is going outside where there will be ticks is at risk for getting bitten, but we tend to see a higher risk of tick-borne illness in those who are outside on a constant basis, such as landscapers and individuals in production agriculture such as cattle owners and horse owners,” Talley said.

After spending time outdoors, but before heading indoors or getting into a car, people should check carefully to ensure no ticks are hitching a ride. Unattached ticks can be brushed off the body or clothing.

Once an attached tick has been removed, it is a good idea to seal it in a plastic bag and save it in the event symptoms develop.

“We recommend keeping the tick for about a month,” Talley said. “That way, if you begin developing symptoms, you can tell your doctor you were bitten by this particular tick. That gives the doctor a lot of clues and helps direct the treatment.”

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