We’ve finally gathered all of the tick removal tools and supplies that we’ve been collecting over the past few months and created an official Tick Kit. From now on, it’ll be joining us on our forest school drop offs and pick ups, trips to the cottage, on hikes and to Young Herbalist Club. I’ve seen various types of Tick Kits out there, and to me, there’s honestly not one that seems better than any of the others, so go ahead and make one to suit your own personal preferences and needs. You want to take every precaution to prevent ticks from latching on in the first place, but if it still ends up happening – which it undoubtedly will if you’re outdoorsy and/or live in a Lyme-endemic area – you wanna make sure to get that sucker off, and fast!
The main components to think about when creating your own kit, which I’ll explain in detail below, are: Proper tick removal, tick preserving and labeling, bite care, and after-care. I’ll also include a free printable PDF for you to include in your Tick Kit, if desired; it includes a tick identification chart and a tick bite cheat sheet, as pictured here:
Proper tick removal
Ticks can be the size of a pinhead in their larval stage, so you can easily mistake them for a freckle or a beauty mark, and you can likewise mistake a small scab or fleck of dirt for a tick. So before you go panicking or digging into someone’s flesh with tweezers, make sure what you’re removing is actually a tick by holding a magnifying glass to it and inspecting it. It’s essential to note that nymph and adult ticks have 8 legs, but larval ticks only have 6.
Removing the tick intact and without causing it distress is your best bet for preventing the spread of infection. To do this, you want to make sure that you avoid twisting, burning or applying pressure, oils or soaps to the tick’s backside, or else the tick could regurgitate in your bloodstream thus heightening your chance of contracting Lyme or one of the many other tick-borne infections. It’s important to grab the tick firmly by the head, as close to the mouth as possible, then gently and continuously pull until the tick releases from its host.
The tool to use will be dependent on each individual situation (where the tick is on the body, whether on animal or human, the size of the tick, etc.) and on the personal preference and comfort level of the individual using the tool. It’s a good idea to keep more than one type of tick tool in your kit to be able to address different circumstances with the right tool. You can use a tick key, a lasso, a straw and thread, a tick spoon, tweezers, or a tick twister (the latter should only be used as a sort of crowbar, and not for twisting the tick). We’ve personally had very much luck using the tick key for adult ticks, but for ticks in the larval and nymph stages, tweezers are what we prefer to use. You can see in the picture below that I’ve kept the packaging for the tick key. I did this because the reverse has instructions on how to use it. You may want to keep any packaging or instructions detailing how to use your tick-removing tool in your Tick Kit, too.
Tick Preserving and Labeling
Once you’ve removed the tick, place it in a small container or bag and seal it well. You can use medical tape and a marker to label the jar, or you can use a pen and notepad to jot down all relevant information, such as the date, location, who was bit and where on their body, type of tick, etc. When I get home, I add that information to our health binder. Some people like to keep clear tape and a small notepad or a piece of cardstock in their Tick Kit in order to tape the ticks they remove directly onto the pages where they can pencil in all relevant information. I do not do this; I prefer to keep my tick in a ziplock on my counter for months and shout profanities at it when I’m having a bad Lyme day. (Ha… Actually, our ticks just sit around the house because I haven’t yet figured out the best place to send them off for testing.)
To help identify the type of tick that was attached, I found a chart (pictured below) with clear illustrations of four of the most common ticks that you’ll find on yourself and your pets, in their various stages. You can print it out and laminate it, if you wish, then add it to your Tick Kit for convenient identification. This information will come in handy for figuring out whether the tick is likely to carry Lyme and/or certain co-infections.
I highly recommend keeping a pen or marker in your Tick Kit to draw a circle around the tick if it’s small, unless it’s clearly been embedded for a long time and the area is inflamed, hence very obvious. We recently extracted a tick from a friend’s child’s back, and the tick was so tiny and hadn’t been attached for very long, that by the time we got home and tried to treat the bite, we could no longer find where it had been embedded.
After carefully extracting, preserving and labeling the tick, I follow Master Herbalist Stephen Buhner’s advice of applying andrographis tincture to the bite site. The lyme bacteria is called a spirochete thanks to its spiral shape and the way it screws down to burrow into tissue. According to Buhner (Healing Lyme, second edition): “Andrographis is the best anti-spirochetal for borrelial infections. […] We have seen very good results in preventing Lyme infection if Andrographis tincture is applied to the tick bite as soon as the tick is removed.” His instructions for use are as follows: “Remove tick, liberally apply Andrographis tincture to bite site, cover with a moistened glob of bentonite clay, cover that with thin cotton, and leave on for twelve to twenty-four hours. From reports, this seems to prevent active infection nearly every time.”
After using the dropper to apply the andrographis, I allow it to sit for several minutes on the bite site to be absorbed. If you’re dealing with a fidgety child or the bite is in a very awkward location on the body, you can soak a cotton ball with andrographis and secure to the bite site with a bandaid. After about 10 minutes, you can remove the ball of tincture-soaked cotton and apply a glob of bentonite clay which has also been moistened with andrographis tincture. You can use a small silicone or medicine cup and a popsicle stick to stir them together to form a thick paste. Once the poultice has been applied, I cover it with a sheet of gauze and secure with medical tape, then leave on for about 24 hours.
After doing bite care, you can administer the homeopathic Ledum palustre 200CH or 1M, if this is something you wish to do, and continue to do so for at least 3 days. In simple terms, Ledum is said to repel any foreign matter or infection that attempts to enter the body at the site of a puncture wound of any kind. Surprisingly, it was a pharmacist that recommended this protocol to me, and I’ve since heard of it being recommended by a local Lyme-literate doctor (LLMD). Whether you choose to follow this step or not is to your discretion; take it or leave it. You can administer the Ledum at any point after discovering the embedded tick, however it is said that the sooner this protocol is initiated, the better the outcome.
At this point, you may want to be in touch with your doctor and/or an LLMD/LLND so that they can document the bite and administer antibiotics and/or initiate an herbal protocol. All the while, you should keep an eye out for a bullseye rash and flu-like symptoms. I also highly recommend you learn the symptoms of Lyme disease, since it’s well-known in the Lyme community that you can do everything “by the book” and still end up with Lyme disease. If symptoms do arise, Lyme treatment should be initiated immediately.
The items I keep in my Tick Kit are:
1. Tick removers of choice: Fine-tipped tweezers, Tick Key, Tick Twister, thread and straw, etc.
2. Magnifying glass
3. Clean specimen jar or small pill container
4. Pen or marker
5. Andrographis tincture
6. Bentonite clay
7. Small silicone cup or medicine cup and popsicle sticks (in ziplock bag)
8. Ledum palustre 200CH
9. Various shapes and sizes of sterile gauze pads
10. Cotton balls
12. Medical tape
13. Small pair of scissors
15. Tick Bite Reference Cards PDF (Click to save, print, cut and laminate, if desired!)
Last but not least, make sure to find a case or pouch to carry everything in.