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Ticks are flat, brown, speckled insects, just 0.25 inches (12 millimeters) across, that can transmit diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. Ticks are common in woods and forests throughout the United States and can become embedded in the skin of hikers and campers. A tick fastens itself to a host with its teeth, then secretes a cementlike material to reinforce its hold.

It is important to remove a tick carefully, in order to get the whole insect. Complications could arise if the tick's mouthparts or pincers remain under the skin. The first step in tick removal is to cover the tick with mineral, salad, or machine oil to block its breathing pores. If the tick does not disengage after about 30 minutes, use tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull it away with a steady pressure, or lift the tick slightly upward and pull it parallel to the skin until the tick detaches. Do not twist or jerk the tick.

Another method of tick removal is to light a match, then blow it out. Place the charred end of the match against the tick's posterior. This may make the tick uncomfortable enough to back out of the skin.

Once the tick has been removed, wash the bite site and hands well with soap and water and apply alcohol. If necessary, apply a cold pack to reduce pain. After walking through tick-infested areas, it's wise to check yourself and your companions for ticks. They commonly latch on to areas of the skin beneath restrictive clothing, such as waist bands.

Sources: Diseases and Disorders Handbook, pp. 412-13; Thygerson, Alton L. First Aid Essentials, pp. 115-16; Vickery, Donald M. and James F. Fries. Take Care of Yourself: Your Personal Guide to and PreventingIllness,5th ed., p. 176.

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