Teach Me

Tick Tricks – How to Identify, Avoid and Treat Tick Bites

Here’s something that can really get under your skin…

Ok, that’s a poor joke. Especially for anybody that has experienced a tick bite. It’s one of those things that causes you to shudder just hearing about it. The thought of an insect digging in to suck your blood might make you queasy, but the fact is, you might not even feel it when it happens. Bryan Kuhn, PharmD, a poison education specialist at the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center discussed with us the dangers and treatments associated with tick bites.

Where do ticks live outside?

The woods are not the only place where you might encounter a tick. Sure, they tend to live in wooded areas, but that pile of leaves in your yard is also a prime spot for a tick to make its home. Dr. Kuhn recommended gardening in pants and boots to avoid exposing your skin to tick habitats.

Once you return indoors, check yourself for ticks and take a shower. Ticks can also ride into your home on your clothing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends tumble drying your clothes on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks, although if your clothing is damp when you start the cycle, more time may be needed.

Where on my body could ticks be found?

Brace yourself, this part is a little gross. Ticks seek out warm, damp areas on your body. Common spots where a tick may settle in include:

  • Under the arms
  • In and around the ears
  • Inside the belly button
  • Back of the knees
  • In and around the hair
  • Between the legs
  • Around the waist

What ticks are local to Arizona?

There are seven endemic species of tick in the U.S. Arizona has three species that are most common to the region – the brown dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick and Western blacklegged tick.

How common are tick bites in Arizona?

Finally, some good news. Dr Kuhn reassured Arizonans that his team at the Banner Poison & Drug Information Center gets very few calls regarding tick bites every year. “It’s not a common call,” stated Dr. Kuhn. “We get about 20 calls per year regarding tick bites. Contrast that with the 6,000 calls we get about scorpions and you’ll see that tick bites are of relatively little concern to Arizonans.”

How dangerous is a tick bite?

“A tick bite is a not a guarantee of Lyme disease,” said Dr. Kuhn. “Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually a pretty uncommon reaction when the tick bite is treated quickly.” Dr. Kuhn went on to say that infection is a risk with tick bites, but the same is true for any bite.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is actually the more likely infectious disease transmitted by a tick bite in Arizona. It begins with flu-like symptoms and the skin starts to rash in very densely populated bumps surrounding the infected area,” said Dr. Kuhn. “Both Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are very treatable. Chronic Lyme disease does exist, but it’s rare. The tick must be attached to the body for hours, maybe days to transfer enough bacteria.”

How should I remove a tick from my body?

You may have heard a lot of folklore remedies for tick removal. But trying to suffocate the tick with petroleum jelly, scare it with heat or choke it out with nail polish are all misguided attempts at encouraging the tick to leave by choice. This is not necessary. Your goal is to remove the tick quickly and completely. In most cases, you will be able to remove the tick on your own with a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. Dr. Kuhn agreed with the CDC’s instructions:

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. 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 easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.

If you think that you have a tick attached to your body or if you have recently removed a tick and have noticed a rash or other symptoms, call the Banner Poison & Drug Information Center at (800) 222-1222. Dr. Kuhn and his team will answer any questions you have and direct you to the right Banner Health experts for a solution.

Poison Prevention Safety