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Tick Talk: Beacon expert shares how to remove a tick and monitor for signs of a health problem

Tamara Pinto, NP, family nurse practitioner, Beacon Medical Group Bristol

Spring has sprung and so have the ticks. Tick season has arrived earlier than normal due to the unseasonably mild weather we have been having. We all need to be aware of what we can do to protect ourselves, members of our family and furry family against ticks.

We asked Tami Pinto, family nurse practitioner at Beacon Medical Group Bristol, for her perspective and advice:

Growing up mushroom hunting with my grandmother, she stressed the importance of tick protection. We would always wear long sleeves, pants — even tucking our pants in our socks — and hats. As soon as we would exit the woods, everyone was checked for ticks. I have been fortunate never to have found a tick after hunting, but I do understand the risk and importance of protection.

Ticks can embed in any part of the body, even the scalp. Ticks are very small, about the size of an apple seed, until they embed in the skin and grow. Given their size, you may not feel them on the skin. They do not have wings and are flat and oval in shape. Ticks can be gray, brown, black and reddish-brown in color.

The thing we all must remember is that ticks are everywhere, even in our backyards.

The good news is with early intervention of a tick bite, Lyme disease can be prevented. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria carried by infected ticks. If you do find a tick embedding in your skin, the most important step is to remove it. Use a fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. Pull upward with steady pressure, no twisting or jerking to allow the intact tick to be removed from the skin. The tick must be completely removed from the skin intact to reduce the risk of getting Lyme disease.

After the tick is removed, clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. The live tick must be killed by putting it in rubbing alcohol or placing it in a sealed bag or container. An antibiotic is available to prevent Lyme disease from occurring and must be started within 72 hours of tick removal.

Please always monitor for signs of Lyme disease if you have been bitten by a tick. Early signs are fever, bullseye rash, or flu-like symptoms weeks after a tick bite. If Lyme disease is left untreated there can be lasting effects.

Ticks will remain active from spring to summer and again in early fall. There are tick repellents available over the counter and lawn applications aimed at reducing ticks in your yard. At any point if you have concerns about a tick bite or Lyme disease, please seek medical attention.

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About Heidi Prescott

Passionate about writing her whole life, Heidi Prescott joined Beacon Health System in 2015 and currently serves as Senior Media Relations Strategist. A former newspaper journalist who has experience in TV, radio, magazines and social media, Heidi loves storytelling, photography and spending time in nature.