The above picture is an engorged tick on the back of a child's ear. Photo credit: http://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/6/2/49
It is commonly stated that ticks must be attached for a minimum period of time, such as 24-48 hours, in order to transmit disease. However, a review of relevant scientific literature done in 2015 stated that “the minimum attachment time for transmission of infection has never been established”. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4278789/
Tick bites should be monitored carefully regardless of size of engorged tick or attachment time. The most recent North American treatment guidelines found here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1586/14787210.2014.940900 suggest 20 days of antibiotic treatment for a known Ixodes tick bite if there is evidence of feeding, regardless of tick engorgement. These guidelines also do not recommend a single dose of treatment.
Proper Tick Removal Techniques
Save your peppermint oil for aromatherapy, NOT for removing ticks! Incorrect removal can raise the risk of infection if during the removal the tick is squeezed. This can push the contents of the tick’s gut (where the pathogens are) into you. Stress to the tick (such as by using a lighted match or essential oils) can cause the tick to regurgitate its stomach contents into you (potentially causing infection) and are therefore NOT recommended as safe removal methods.
U.S Centres for Disease Control recommend the following tick removal method:
Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth parts, you may wish to see a health care professional for assistance.
After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
If the tick was attached to a person or a pet, you may wish to consider having the tick tested.
If you wish to dispose of a live tick you may submerse it in alcohol, place it in a sealed bag/container, wrap it tightly in tape, or flush it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers
If you find a tick attached to you or your pet, you may wish to have the tick tested to determine if it is carrying any disease, and which ones. You may wish to make your own testing arrangements as opposed to leaving your tick with your medical professional as he or she may or may not be familiar with the testing process and options in your area.
Comprehensive private testing: There are private companies that will accept your tick for testing and send the results to you within just a few days. This is usually the fastest and most comprehensive option but can cost up to several hundred dollars.
Canadian Public Health:Some of our Canadian health units will accept ticks for identification and testing in certain circumstances. Some will not accept ticks at all, others will only accept blacklegged ticks if found on humans. Before you submit your tick, make sure you understand the purpose of the testing, which species of ticks will be accepted, which diseases they will test for (often only Lyme disease but no Co-Infections), what information you will receive and when. Often public health units only accept ticks for their own research and surveillance purposes and you may or may not be notified if your tick is tested and there may be a long time period to get results (which may lead to a delayed diagnosis and more serious disease progression).
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