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Tick season begins as Sydney immunologists warn ‘dab, don’t grab’ and ‘freeze, don’t squeeze’

October 30, 2015
Latest News

Tick season begins as Sydney immunologists warn ‘dab, don’t grab’ and ‘freeze, don’t squeeze’ – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

The warmer months in Sydney are a great time to take advantage of the great outdoors and longer days, but it also the time of year that ticks are out in force.

While schoolchildren may have recently come home with tips on how to check pets or reduce green litter around the house, there is still some confusion on how best to deal with ticks once they latch onto the skin.

If it’s a small tick, dab it, don’t grab it. If it’s a large tick, freeze it, don’t squeeze it.

Associate Professor Cheryl Van Nunen is a specialist in clinical immunology with the Royal North Shore Hospital and has published over 100 papers regarding stinging insects.

Together with her colleagues at the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, they have come up with a handy rhyme to help remember what to do if you are unlucky enough to be bitten.

It goes: “If it’s a small tick, dab it, don’t grab it. If it’s a large tick, freeze it, don’t squeeze it.”

Which tick is which?
There are three kinds of ticks commonly found on the east coast of Australia.

The larval form is around one millimetre in size, has six legs and often delivers multiple bites.

Next a tick reaches nymph stage, which is slightly bigger at around two millimetres, has eight legs and can appear to be a splinter in your skin.

The third kind is easier to spot — an adult tick is sized from four millimetres up to around 13 millimetres when fully engorged.

The result of tick bites can be extreme, including rashes, meat allergy and anaphylaxis.

According to Professor Van Nunen, health problems arising from tick bites are more common in Sydney than nut allergies.

Traditional wisdom regarding how to remove ticks is to use fine-pointed tweezers.

Professor Van Nunen said people living in areas prone to ticks should also have a permethrin cream and an ether-containing spray on hand in their first aid kit.

“They have to be prepared to deal with a tick at any time, day or night, so there is a little planning,” she said.

“Fine-tipped tweezers will work, but many people translate that to household tweezers; household tweezers are tick squeezers.”

Professor Van Nunen also said it was important to resist the urge to scratch the bite.

“It’s absolutely essential not to scratch … because disturbing [it] causes the tick to ‘squirt’ and when it does that it squirts in allergens,” she said.

Published by ABC News, 29/10/2015