How to prevent and remove ticks safely
Last week I found a tick on my daughter’s back. Eeeeeewwwww!
We had no idea what it was and removed it before we realised. Luckily it was quite small, not engorged and she did not show any adverse symptoms. It was very odd because she had not been in the bush or the garden, only to work that day.
There seems to be a tick problem on the east coast of Australia at the moment and there is a lot of information going around about how to treat them. Some of the info is outdated and some treatments can make the problem worse (yeah, that viral peppermint oil video!!)
So I thought it would be useful to share with you some updated information from some reliable sources so you have a handy reference. The products recommended to remove the ticks are not natural but for once-off tick removal, I think they are justified in this case.
….and is it just me or are ticks like lice in that when you start talking about them, you get itchy!!!
What are ticks?
Ticks are an eight legged insect. They are parasites and live by feeding off the blood of humans and animals. Little beggars!
How do you get them?
Adult ticks can attach themselves to grass and vegetation and transfer themselves to us and our pets. They are mostly found on the east coast of Australia. They are most active when it’s humid, particularly after rain. They can crawl up your body and like warm, moist areas.
Health problems related to ticks
Allergic reactions or anaphylaxis
Allergic reactions to red meat (Mammalian Meat Allergy)
Transmission of infections (such as Lyme Disease)
How to remove a tick safely
Current research says that you should kill adult ticks where they are by freezing with an ether-containing spray (like Wart Off Freeze Spray or Elastoplast Cold Spray) and then waiting till it falls off or removing carefully.
“freeze it, don’t squeeze it”
For the smaller ticks or larvae, a cream containing permethrin is recommended. Get it at the chemist and dab it on and wait for them to fall off or remove carefully.
“dab it, don’t grab it”
You should not scratch, squeeze or compress ticks. Do not use tweezers or ‘tick removal’ gadgets. You should not apply essential oils, vaseline, kerosene or other substances. These methods can cause the tick to release more allergen containing saliva into you.
Keep the tick in a sealed container in case it’s needed later.
Wash your hands thoroughly and keep an eye on the person who has been bitten. Homeopathic remedy, ledum may assist with swelling and local reaction.
Don’t be shy about seeking medical attention if needed.
This video by Dr Jonica Newby from Catalyst explains it very simply.
How to prevent ticks
Wear long sleeved shirts and pants if you are bushwalking, camping or outside near vegetation. Light coloured clothing means you can see ticks more easily.
DEET sprays are recommended for tick prevention but I would rather not use that on an ongoing basis, especially on kids.
There are some good studies that found geranium and lemon eucalyptus essential oils can prevent ticks from attaching themselves to you. You can make up your own spray by adding either oil to a spray bottle of water with a dash of vodka. The Bug-grrr Off Spray contains the lemon eucalyptus.
After being in bushland areas, check yourself, kids and pets thoroughly, including head, hair and backs of ears. Clothes can be put in a hot dryer for 20 minutes to kill any ticks attached.
Have you had a tick outbreak where you live this year?
Sources and further reading
tiara.org.au TIARA – Tick Induced Allergies Research and Awareness