How to remove a tick (and prevent Lyme Disease)

I recently got a phone call from someone who thought she had a tick on her, so I thought it might be useful to discuss the right–and the wrong–way to remove a tick. If you don’t take the tick off correctly, it won’t let go. It will just keep on cheerfully sucking your blood and pumping pathogens into you!

First, DO NOT do any of these things to the tick:

  • Put vasoline on it
  • Put fingernail polish over it
  • Put Mineral Oil on it
  • Drench it with Whiskey, Wine, or other alcoholic beverages.
  • Stick a lit match on it (or a recently extinguished match)
  • Especially do not combine the above flammable materials with the match treatment! :)

Not only will this not effectively remove the tick, but it may cause the tick to barf up its gut contents into your wound. Ew.

You should remove the tick with tweezers. End of story.remove a tick

Here’s the process:

  1. Grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible with tweezers. Don’t squeeze the body! You risk compressing the guts and expelling bacteria through the tick’s mouth into your body.
  2. Pull the tick out straight with a slow, steady motion. Don’t twist–this again can compress the guts.
  3. Save the tick, if you live in an area with tick borne-disease.

Ok, the tick’s off of you. But what should you be looking out for if you fear Lyme Disease?

First, make a guess what sort of tick you have. The tick that carries Lyme is a tiny little bastard–this photo will give you a sense of the size.

The first symptom of Lyme is a rash, with the fancy name of Erythema Migrans. It’s fairly distinctive, and sometimes develops into a “bulls-eye” rash. Seek medical attention ASAP if you develop a red rash around your bite!

The best thing for you to do is to prevent the problem in the first place by wearing a repellent. DEET containing materials are the only reliable products for tick repellancy right now. You can also get some nifty clothes that have repellent right in the fabric.

Burn all the citronella candles you want–you’ll just get the ticks in the mood. (Playing some Barry White might also be helpful.)

If you don’t want to wear repellent, how about looking at the CDC list of tick-borne diseases for some motivation?

Astrology in the Classroom!

Today’s issue of Nature contains a letter from a Physics prof, who has found a very creative way to both teach newtonian physics and debunk Astrology!

(he doesn’t, however, indicate that it was James Randi who first developed the technique he is using, or that the proceedure is also described in the book “how to think about wierd things.” It may simply be that smart people think alike.)

Nature 447, 528 (31 May 2007) | doi:10.1038/447528a; Published online 30 May 2007. Treating astrology’s claims with all due gravity. Steven K. Lower

“I teach an introductory science class at my university, which typically enrols many non-science majors. During a lecture on the gravitational force, I imply that if planets such as Mars exert a force on any object, including humans, then perhaps there is something to astrology’s idea that celestial bodies exert a force of influence on our lives. I encourage my students to undertake a test I have designed for this notion.

I present the students with 12 randomly numbered horoscopes from the previous day, with the corresponding signs of the zodiac removed. I ask each student to record the horoscope that best describes the day she or he had, and the astrological sign (for example, Aries) corresponding to her/his birthday. My scientific hypothesis is that planets may exert a force on our bodies, but it is purely random — 1 out of 12 (8.3%) — whether a horoscope foretells the events of one’s life.

I am pleased to report that, as Shawn Carlson has noted, “astrology failed to perform at a level better than chance” (Nature 318, 419–425; 1985). The results from my classes are: 8.0% (n = 163 students), 8.4% (n = 155), 7.0% (n = 143), 8.0% (n = 138) and 8.0% (n = 100). In other words, as John Maddox has commented “astrology is a pack of lies … There is no evidence that the positions of the planets can affect human behaviour” (Nature 368, 185; 1994)./”

Cool video of Mr. Randi in a classroom, doing a similar exercise: