How to Avoid Tick Bites

Boy has tick surgically removed from eardrum

Three days after playing outside, a 9-year-old felt something “foreign” in his ear and kept hearing a buzzing sound.

Doctors at Yale-New Haven Hospital quickly figured out why. The boy had a tick attached to his eardrum, which was now inflamed.

"Removal of the tick with guidance from an operative microscope was attempted in the office, but the tick could not be removed," Drs. David Kasle and Erik Waldman reported in the May 2 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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The tick's capitulum — the mouth parts that do the probing, holding and bloodsucking — was "dug in," Kasle said. Pulling the tick straight out would probably tear the membrane, CNN reported.

The boy was taken to surgery, and doctors used a microscope and tiny hook to remove the tick from his eardrum. The tick was identified as a Dermacentor variabilis, commonly known as the American dog tick. This tick transmits the bacterium that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

How can you prevent this from happening to you or your kids? One word: precautions.

>> Robust ticks now a year-round problem in some areas, even in the winter

“From Easter on, our most common ticks are active,” lmer Gray, a public health entomologist with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, told the Newnan Times-Herald. “Whenever you walk into grass that touches your legs, you need to take precautions or you could come home with ticks. You don’t have to be in the woods to pick them up.”

But tick season is really all year round in Georgia and other states. The best prevention is to keep your yards, bushes and trees trimmed, and to check your pets often (especially behind their ears). If you have more questions about preventing ticks on pets, ask your local veterinarian for safe products.

“Ticks thrive in moist, shady areas and tend to die in sunny, dry areas,” mosquito and tick expert Russ Jundt said.

>> How opossums help fight ticks and Lyme disease

Before you go outside, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta recommends treating any bare skin with an insect repellent that contains DEET, and clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin.

Try to avoid wooded or bushy areas with high grass and piles of leaves. If you do go into the woods, stay in the center of the trail as much as possible.

>> CDC investigating Asian longhorned tick infestation in multiple states

When you come back in, wash your clothes in hot water (cold or medium won’t kill ticks) and then take a shower. Do a body check after bathing. Use a handheld or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. 

Check

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

>> 10 ways to prevent tick bites on people and pets

If you find a tick using you like a feed bag, the CDC recommends you:

  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/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.

By taking the proper precautions, you and your family can enjoy the outdoors all year round.

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