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Tick bite triage - Do's and don'ts

CDC: Disease cases from tick bites have doubled

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – Disease carrying ticks can be found in more places than ever before and disease cases from ticks have doubled, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Cleveland Clinic’s Alan Taege, M.D., said if someone finds a tick on their skin, it’s important to know how to remove it safely to reduce the likelihood of infection. 

“What we should be doing is getting a tweezers - a fine nose tweezers - and try to reach the very head of that tick where it's attached to your body and that's where you should grasp it and carefully remove it,” he said.

Ticks should be removed as soon as possible when found attached to the skin.

Using fine-tipped tweezers, Taege recommends grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible. 

Then, pull upward with steady, even pressure until it’s removed - but, be careful. If a tick is squeezed during removal, bacteria and germs may squirt into the body and cause infection.

After removing a tick, wash the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Taege said knowing what not to do is also important when removing a tick.  

“Many people want to squeeze them and kill the little creature first and that's exactly the wrong thing to do,” said Taege. “What you should also not do is to try to touch the tick with a hot match or any other kind of a hot object. Some people will use a burning cigarette. Because all this does is cause the tick to regurgitate its potential infection into your body.”

Taege said prevention is key when it comes to avoiding a tick bite.  He suggests wearing light colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants – which helps keep ticks out, but also makes it easier to spot a tick on clothing. 

People who have concerns about a tick bite, or develop a rash after being bitten, should call their doctor.