Tick exposure and removal

Anyone who enjoys going outdoors takes the risk of being exposed to ticks.  Ticks are parasitic arthropods that live in the soil and can climb 70 feet above the surface.  They typically attach themselves to children or animals as they walk along wooded paths, shrubs, tall grass, or under low lying tree branches (Caple, 2013).

There are 850 species of ticks they are categorized into soft body ticks and hard body ticks.  Both of these categories can cause illness.  In North America the most common tick borne illnesses are Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted Fever, Colorado tick fever, and Ehrlichiosis.  The most prevalent is Lyme disease (Caple, 2013).  The size and color of the tick can help determine if it was a wood tick (or dog tick) which is up to ½ inch in size and transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Colorado tick fever.  The deer tick (brown tick) transmits Lyme disease and is the size of a pinhead, or a poppy seed (Schmitt, 1992). The CDC reports that 25,000 Americans will develop Lyme disease this year. Children are most frequently the victims of tick bites, because they are low to ground and have frequent contact with pets.  They enjoy playing outdoors during the warm summer months in the grass or wooded areas wearing shorts, tank tops, and swim suits which increase their exposure to ticks (CDC, 2013).   

It is important to protect your children and your pets from exposure to ticks.  Simple ways you can do this is to wear long sleeve shirts and pants when outdoors; make sure you tuck your pants into your socks (Schmitt, 1992).  Sawer Controlled Release and Repel are insect repellents that contain 20% DEET.  They can be applied to the skin and offer protection for several hours.  If you do not wish to apply these products to the skin they can be used on clothing such as shoes and socks (CDC, 2013).   When children are out doors for extended periods of time it’s a good idea to perform tick checks every 2 to 3 hours on clothing and exposed skin (Schmitt, 1992).  Children may not be aware they have been bitten by ticks because they release a neurotoxin which numbs the skin.  This allows the tick to stay in place so they can feed longer. (Caple, 2013).  Once indoors parents should carefully check children for ticks, paying special attention to folded skin areas.  Favorite hiding places are in the hair (scalp), neck, behind the ears, armpits, groin, behind the knees, inside the belly button, and around the waist, and on the back. (CDC, 2013).  Having your child take a brisk shower is a good way to remove ticks that are not firmly attached (Schmitt, 1992).  Checking your pets is also important because they can bring ticks into the house.  The CDC recommends placing clothes into a dryer on high heat this will effectively kill ticks (CDC, 2013.  If you find a tick on your child it is important to quickly remove it to prevent infection.  Lyme disease transmission requires 18 to 24 hours of feeding (Schmitt, 1992).

The simplest and quickest way to remove a tick is to pull it off.  Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible (try to grip on the ticks head).  Apply a steady upward traction until the tick releases its grip.  Do not twist or jerk these maneuvers can break off the tick’s head or mouth parts.  Do not squeeze the tweezers to the point of crushing the tick because the fluids contain infectious agents.  If you do not have tweezers, just simple use your fingers in the same way to remove the tick (Schmitt, 1992).  There are several tick removal tools that can be used one is “Ticked Off” this tool is Physician and veterinarian endorsed it removes the tick without you touching it (www.ticked off.com).  After the tick is removed wash the area with soap and water.  Do not use home remedies to remove a tick, such as matches, applying oil, or nail polish remover. The idea is to remove the tick quickly to prevent exposure to illness (Schmitt, 1992).

If you have been exposed to a tick bite it is important to watch for signs or symptoms of Lyme disease.  A child who has been bitten may experience fever or rash occurring one week after the bite.  The characteristic rash of Lyme disease is known as erythema migrans (EM).  It may begin as an intense reddened area at the site of the bite which expands over a few days or weeks reaching 8 inches in diameter.  As the rash expands the center begins to clear and it resembles a “bull’s eye” with edges being darker and the center being clear (HU, 2014). 

It is not always necessary to see your family doctor if you have been exposed to a tick and you removed promptly.  However if you can’t remove the tick, the ticks head remains embedded, or you develop a fever and the “bull’s eye” rash you should follow up with your primary care physician for further treatment as soon as possible (Schmitt, 1992).


Hu, MD, L. (2014). Patient information: What to do after a tick bite to prevent Lyme disease (Beyond the Basics). In UpToDate . Retrieved February 18, 2014, from www.uptodate.com

Caple, C. (2013, June 21). What is Tick Removal. In Nursing Practice & Skill. Retrieved March 25, 2014, from Cinahle Information Systems.

Schmitt, MD, B. D. (1992). YOUR CHILDS'S HEALTH (p. 102). N.p.: Saunders Company.

It's spring-Time to prevent Lyme disease (2013, May 6). In centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Retrieved March 25, 2014, from www.cdc.gov/features/lymedisease.

(n.d.). In Ticked off World's Simplist Tick remover. Retrieved March 25, 2014, from www.tickedoff.com