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By Sarah Hunstead
Sarah Hunstead
16 Nov, 2020

Do you know the safest way to remove a tick from your child (or yourself)?

Paralysis tick, Ixodes holocyclus

You may be surprised – FREEZE, DON’T TWEEZE OR SQUEEZE!

Ticks are parasites that feed on animal and human blood. There are hundreds of diffrent species around the world, with around 70 species found in Australia.

The type of tick that concerns us humans the most in Australia is the Paralysis Tick, Ixodes holocyclus – according to the Department of Health statistics over 95% of tick bites and most tick-borne illnesses in Australia are due to this species.

Usually, tick bites don’t cause much problem apart from swelling and redness at the bite site, however some people may have tick allergy or tick paralysis.

Tick paralysis, while rare, is usually seen in children rather than adults. Signs and Symptoms of tick paralysis may include:

  • rashes,
  • headache,
  • fever,
  • flu-like symptoms,
  • sore lymph nodes,
  • unsteady walking,
  • intolerance to bright light,
  • facial paralysis,
  • weakness of the limbs.

Mild allergic reactions to ticks appear as large local swelling and inflammation at the site of a tick bite, that can last for several days.

Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) to tick bite can happen.  Anaphylaxis occurs when the tick is disturbed, as this causes the tick to inject more allergen-containing saliva. Click here to read about tick allergy and anaphylaxis, and tick induced mammalian meat allergy.

DO NOT scratch the area, try to remove the tick by squeezing or pulling, or apply chemicals such as methylated spirits, kerosene, tea tree or peppermint oil (or other essential oils). Do not try to burn the tick. Irritating the tick with cause it to inject more allergen containing saliva.

The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy recommend the following preventative measures to help reduce the risk of tick bites:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers when walking in areas where ticks live.
  • Tuck shirt into trousers.
  • Tuck trouser legs into long socks.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Wear light-coloured clothes, which makes it easier to see ticks.
  • Brush clothing before coming inside to remove ticks.
  • Undress and check for ticks daily, checking carefully in the neck and scalp.
  • An insect repellent that contains DEET (such as RID, Tropical RID, Tropical Aerogard, or Bushmans).
  • Consider using permethrin-treated clothing when exposed to tick habitat or gardening in tick endemic areas.
  • People with recurrent dangerous allergic reactions to tick bites may consider relocating to an area where ticks are not endemic.

TIARA recommend the following first aid –


  • For small ticks (larvae and nymphs), use permethrin cream (available at pharmacies).
  • For adult ticks, freeze them with an ether-containing spray (available at pharmacies).

And remember, household tweezers are tick squeezers!

Watch the video below (recorded live on Facebook) nurse Sarah Hunstead to learn the safest method.

References and further info:

TIARA: https://www.tiara.org.au/

ASCIA: https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/insect-allergy-bites-and-stings/tick-allergy

Health direct: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/tick-bites

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