I live in New York State, where deer ticks and Lyme disease are a big problem. According to the local state park head ranger, deer ticks actually cement their heads into the skin and so the slow steady pull doesn’t work, which is why it is recommended that a doctor remove them. The head has to be cut out of the skin. Apparently, the tick lies flat at first, until it starts getting full, at which point the body begins to assume the vertical. Then it uses another body secretion to dissolve the cement, and it is this which is most likely to carry the Lyme Disease spirochete. It takes about 24-48 hours for the tick to become full, which defines the window of time for removal while avoiding the disease.
Not having health insurance, I have developed a different method than an expensive doctor or emergency room visit. I cut the head out with an Exacto knife, tick still attached. And the ranger assured me he uses a similar method, as he is exposed to many ticks a day during the height of the season.
I am not advocating self surgery here, but thought I would simply provide the information.
For Lyme disease, yes, it takes a minimum of about 24 hours after tick implantation for the bacteria to be transmitted, and if you remove the tick before then, your likelihood of being infected is minimal. Also don’t cut it out - grasp it firmly behind the head with a good pair of tweezer and pull straight out, then disinfect hte bite site with alcohol ad bandage it.
The problem is finding the tick before then. Its not the adult ticks that are the problem - while they certainly can transmit the parasites, they are big and easy to see. The problem is the tick nymphs, which are about the size of a pinhead and easy to miss - the vast majority of human Lyme disease is transmitted by nymphs for this reason - not because they are better at transmitting, but because they are less likely to be noticed and removed in time.
Also, bear in mind that Lyme disease is not the only thing transmitted by ticks. You have various Rickettsial pathogens, Erlichia, Anaplasma, and other things (depending on your geographic location and local tick species). The 24 hour rule doesn’t necessarily apply to these other pathogens, some of which (while rarer) are more likely to kill you if you do get them.
Bottom line, if you are going into tick habitat, don’t expose yourself, tuck in your pants and clothes, and use a DEET-based repellent. And check yourself carefully afterward.
In the UK dogs, cats and pretty much everything else only gets the “Castor Bean” tick - Ixodes ricinus (I think there is a soft bodied tick appearing in the southern counties now). They do potentially spread Lyme disease, but as far as tick bourne diseases go that’s a bit of a softie. To remove them you can get little plastic forks (“O’tom” removers, as they’re known) - you hook the prongs of the fork underneath the tick’s body and rotate gently (I did hear anticlockwise; not sure whether that’s urban legend) - to “unscrew” the mouthparts. It does work within a couple of seconds, although having seen close ups of the tick’s rostrum I’m not convinced it’s actually a proper corkscrew. There are repellents (Advantix - imidocloprid and pyrethrin I think) which dissuade Ixodes from attaching as well as killing them - one would have thought it would work on humans the same as it does on dogs but I expect if you’re in an area where ticks are dangerous to humans you have drugs marketed for application to humans.
Also do not apply kerosene, or Vaseline, or hold a flame close to the tick or any of the myriad of other “solutions” that people use to cause ticks to detach. Those things do all cause the tick to detach, and they do it by causing the tick great distress. The liquids work by suffocating the animal, the flame by burning.
The problem is that after it has started feeding a tick can’t readily detached. If it is forced to detach it has to first regurgitate most of its meal. That means that it is literally spewing its gut contents into your bloodstream.
As others have noted in this thread, the danger from these animals comes when they start to pump you full of their saliva and gut contents. By burning them or smothering them with hand lotion or oils you are ensuring that they do that immediately. That’s the absolute last thing you want to happen.
Ticks really don’t drink much. Simply having them attached to you isn’t the problem. The problem comes from the diseases they carry and, in some cases, by the salivary toxins they produce. The best way to avoid both those thing is not to disturb them at all until you are ready to remove them. Irritating them and letting them remove themselves is a really, really bad idea.
Ok, fair enough, but do you have a cite for all that? Are you saying there is 100% chance they will regurgitate if you suffocate them? What’s the chance of regurgitation if you’re yanking on them with tweezers (I’ve found they’re hard to break loose that way even if I do go deep as possible.)
Here is a cite. There are better ones, but its the first one I came up with.
From the abstract:
…Other methods of removing ticks, such as using fingers, lighted cigarettes, petroleum jelly, or suntan oil, should be avoided. Killing the tick in situ may increase the risk of regurgitation by the tick and the transmission of infectious agents…
The chance of regurgitation is certainly less than 100%, but why take the chance?
My dog picked up a tick a few months ago, so naturally I went online to see what to do and found the usual methods - matches, fingernail polish, oil, hot sauce, pulling with tweezers, etc. My husband tried matches and oil, which he considered “tried and true” methods, but they didn’t work - so we were about ready for a trip to the vet.
Then I found a method called “spinning.” You just rub the tick in tiny circles until it backs out. It took a couple of tries over a minute or two - not quite as quick as the articles indicated - but it did work. The tick backed right out of my dog, and I know it was intact because it crawled around on my (gloved) hand before I disposed of it, and I could see the head.
Here’s a link that has a video of how to do it:
It may not work with all varieties of tick, but it worked great for the dog tick.
There seems to be some controversy about whether the tick “regurgitates” its germs before pulling out, but I’m not sure any method can guarantee against that.
I would love the Straight Dope about why this works! (Some articles claim the tick gets “dizzy” but I don’t buy it.)