The prevalence of Lyme disease in the United States has steadily increased over the past several years. In 2013, the disease was reported in all but 8 states.1 Prevention, as we know, is key.
Common preventive steps include using DEET insect repellent, wearing long pants and sleeves outdoors, tucking pants into socks, wearing light-colored clothing to make ticks more visible, and checking one’s body daily for ticks.2,3 The next best way to prevent Lyme disease is timely tick removal, as it is believed that in most cases the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted after 36 to 48 hours of tick attachment.2,3
The safest and most effective method of removal remains controversial. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using forceps or tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible, and without twisting, pulling it straight up with steady, even pressure.4
We have used an alternate method of removing ticks that can be done at home or in a clinic without the use of special tools. It has been 100% effective in the 9 patients who presented to our clinic with attached deer ticks. With a cotton swab, apply liquid soap in circles over the tick for about 30 to 60 seconds. Then, use a dry cotton swab to wipe away the soap. The tick will be found on the swab with its head intact. We found this “home remedy” to be fast, easy, and painless; it also doesn’t appear to rely on suffocation.
Because there is no squeezing or twisting, the risk of regurgitation is minimized, and thus, the process is much less frightening for children—and maybe even for some adults.
Dionna Rookey, PA-C
Louis A. Kazal, Jr, MD, FAAFP