What are ticks? Where do they live?
Ticks are blood-feeding parasites that are often found in tall grass where they will wait to attach to a passing host (that is you, or your dog). Ticks can be found in most wooded or forested regions throughout the world and will often latch on to shoes or clothes, and then work their way up your clothing until they find a nice piece of exposed skin. When they find exposed skin they will use their cutting mandibles to cut your skin and insert their feeding tube to feed on your blood – they often insert a small amount of natural anasthetic, which is why many people do not remember a tick bite.
Generally the ticks that cause Lyme Disease in the USA carry the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria in their gut, whilst in Europe it is often the Borrelia Afzelii – These bacteria cause Lyme Disase. Currently research is underway in Australia to isolate exactly the type of tick and the specific bacteria that is causing Lyme disease here (there are at least 14 different types of bacteria that cause Lyme Disease identified world wide).
Most of the ticks that infect people with Lyme Disease are in the nymphal, or immature stage of development & are about the size of a poppy seed, which means that many people do not remember a tick bite.
Ticks have been found on every continent of the earth, except Antarctica. There are certain places in Australia that are known Lyme Disease tick hot spots. In NSW, areas such as around Coffs Harbour, in the northern beaches area of Sydney (as well as the Western suburbs of Sydney), and the South Coast of NSW. The LDAA is in the process of mapping instances of Lyme Disease & known locations of tick bites that led to Lyme Disease & hope to be able to better identify endemic areas of infection in ticks (& humans).
How do you remove ticks?
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you cover the tick in metho, rubbing alcohol, bi-carb soda, Vaseline, or burn it with a match – this will make the tick release spirochetes-containing lyme disease (as well as other organisms and disease) into your blood stream. See our Prevention page for more information.
- Use fine-point tweezers or a special tick-removing tool. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. If you don’t have tweezers, protect your fingers with a tissue.
- Pull the tick straight out with steady, even pressure. Click here to view a Tick’s Mouth and why it is so important to pull out the tick correctly.
- Avoid squeezing the tick, breaking it, or allowing any blood to remain on your skin.
- Place the tick in a small plastic bag or vial with blades of grass, leaf, or moist (not wet) piece of tissue.
- Label the bag with your name, date, site of bite and how long tick was attached.
- Have the tick identified and tested by a lab, health department or veterinarian.
- Wash your hands, disinfect the tweezers and bite site.
- Educate yourself about tick-borne diseases and consult a doctor to see if treatment is warranted.
(Thank you to the California Lyme Disease Association for their Tick Bite removal instructions)