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Doctors urge professional tick removal over DIY

Brett Dahlberg
Dr. Scott Allan, medical director at Rochester Regional Health's immediate care clinics, holds some of the tools for removing ticks and treating tick-borne illness.

As tick season arrives in the Finger Lakes, doctors at Rochester Regional Health have encouraged people who get bitten to have the bugs removed by a professional.

Scott Allan, the medical director at Rochester Regional’s immediate care facilities, said he and his colleagues are starting to see tick bites often.
“As the weather gets nicer, more people are going outside, going into the woods, going hiking, getting exposure to ticks,” Allan said. “Definitely getting more common.”

Ticks can carry Lyme disease, a bacteria that causes symptoms including severe headaches and neck stiffness, nerve pain, and, in some cases, muscle and memory problems.

In 2017, the last year for which data is available for the New York state health department, Monroe County had an estimated 184 Lyme disease infections.

Allan said getting ticks removed quickly is important: If they’re removed within 24 hours after the bite, the chance of Lyme disease infection stays low.

But there’s a bit of a trick to it. You want to grasp right around the tick’s jaws.

Allan’s clinic uses very fine-tipped forceps to get into that small space.

“You can certainly try to remove the tick yourself. The problem that you can run into is if you leave parts of the tick embedded,” Allan said.

Those remaining parts can still transmit diseases, even if they’re no longer attached to the rest of the tick, said Allan.

Allan also urged people to avoid alternative methods of removal like slathering the tick with petroleum jelly or trying to burn it out, saying those can be counterproductive.

In general, Allan said, prevention is the best cure. People should wear long pants and shirts and try to avoid walking through areas of brush or tall grass. For people who can’t avoid those areas, though, Allan advised checking for ticks right after getting inside.