Q: What's the best method for removing a tick?
A: It's well known that tick bites can lead to Lyme disease. But ticks also carry a host of other infectious agents, such as Anaplasma, Ehrlichia and Babesia species.
There are a number of misconceptions about how to remove a tick. Do NOT use petroleum jelly, nail polish, or rubbing alcohol to "smother" the tick. And don't try to burn the tick with a recently lit match.
Here's how to effectively remove a tick:
Use fine-tipped tweezers. If you don't have tweezers, you can pull the tick out with your fingers. Just be sure to wear medical gloves or use tissue paper -- not your bare hands.
Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Avoid squeezing the tick's body.
While applying constant pressure and without twisting, pull the tick away from the skin.
Wash the bite site.
Wash your hands well with soap and water, alcohol or an iodine-containing cleanser.
Place the tick in a dry jar or plastic bag, then save it in the freezer for later identification if necessary.
Depending on where you live, the risk of tick-borne illness such as Lyme disease may be high enough to warrant taking an antibiotic if the tick might not have been removed right away, or you can't remove it yourself. Contact your doctor in either case.
(Robert Shmerling, M.D., is a practicing physician in rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Mass., and an Associate Professor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School.)
For additional consumer health information, please visit http://www.health.harvard.edu.)
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