Know How to Identify, Remove Ticks

Ticks can Spread Disease if Bites Not Treated Correctly

If you spend any time in the woods or tall grass this spring and summer, you will likely be on the lookout for ticks. Ticks can transmit a variety of illnesses so it is vital to know what to look for when bitten and when to seek medical treatment.  

Ticks are most populous from spring to fall, said Ashley Garavet, MD, a family medicine physician with ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca. “Ticks thrive best in warm, wet and humid environment so if you are out in that type of area, keep a lookout,” she said.

Ticks are tiny, wingless arachnids that feed on the blood of humans and animals. Tick larvae are about the size of a poppy seed while nymphs are approximately the size of a pinhead. Adult ticks can range from 2 to 10 millimeters in length, depending on when they last fed. They are flat and oval in shape with adults having eight legs and larvae only having six.

Lyme disease is the most common illness carried by ticks in Wisconsin. Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease include red ring-like rash or an expanding rash, malaise, headache, fever and inflammation of the lymph nodes. Tick-related illnesses can be treated by antibiotics.

“Ticks must be attached more than 24 hours to transmit any tick borne illness-so typically a tick removed close to when it attaches should not be a problem,” Dr. Garavet said.

If you are unsure how long the tick was attached or concerned about the bite, patients can call their medical provider’s clinic to see if an appointment is necessary. ThedaCare also offers eVisits so patients can check with a provider on whether or not additional treatment is necessary for the tick bite.

“If patients feel they need an antibiotic, they can come in for an appointment,” Dr. Garavet said. “If at any time, however, patients develop a rash, fever or joint pain, they should absolutely make an appointment to be seen.”

Some patients may spot a tick on themselves or a loved one and not know what to do. The first step is to remove the tick, she said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has this advice on removing ticks:

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. The key is to remove the tick as soon as possible. Do not try folklore remedies such as using nail polish, petroleum jelly or heat to make the tick detach from the skin – the goal is to remove the tick, not wait for it to detach.
  • Pull upward on the tick with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick since that can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with clean tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth parts easily, leave them alone and let the skin heal.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water.

People should take steps to prevent tick bites, such as wearing long pants and long sleeves in areas where ticks are common, like high grasses and deep woods, or by wearing a tick repellant. When done spending time outdoors, do a quick search of your body for any ticks.

“Tick-related illnesses can be severe, but taking steps to prevent bites, such as protective clothing, and knowing how to remove a tick can help prevent you from getting sick,” Dr. Garavet said. “Always ask your medical provider if you have questions related to a possible tick bite or if you experience any strange symptoms after being bit by a tick or being in an area where ticks are common.”

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.