Preventing Tick Bites and Keeping Your Loved Ones Safe with Expert Tick Man Dan

Tick Man Dan Image

Welcome to the Heal Podcast, for all things related to Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses. I’m Mimi MacLean, mom of five, Founder of Lyme 360, and a Lyme warrior. Tune in each week to hear from doctors, health practitioners and experts to hear about their treatments, struggles and triumphs to help you on your healing journey. I’m here to heal with you.

Hi, welcome back to the Heal Podcast. This is Mimi, and today, we have on Dan Wolff. He’s also known as the Tick Man Dan, and he’s the Founder of TickEase, Inc. and the Creator of the dual-sided TickEase Tweezer, which is the only CDC-compliant product shown to effectively remove bedded ticks embedded ticks from people and animals. He’s an expert in the lifecycle and behavior of ticks, making him a sough-after speaker, while seeks to make information on ticks and how to prevent bites that lead to Lyme disease and other illnesses accessible to the wider public. Education awareness is everything when it comes to prevention. His company, TickEase, also provides resources of how to remove ticks safely, know if you’re infected by a bite, and links to laboratories that are used to test the ticks for Lyme disease. Dan, thank you so much for coming on today, I really appreciate it.

Dan: Well, it’s my pleasure. I’m always happy to talk about ticks, it’s my favorite subject.

Mimi: Oh, well, why is that? How did you get into talking about ticks and creating a tick remover?

The Beginning of Tick Man Dan

Dan: Well, in the beginning, like most people, ticks kind of freaked me out. They were gross, and I didn’t like them. However, once I got to know them, you really can start to love them. So I often say, I’m on a love-hate relationship with ticks. To me, they’re extremely fascinating little parasites. Just the evolution of what they do and how they are just so programmed so well and how they’ve evolved into the machines that they are is truly fascinating, and perhaps we can get into some of those details during this podcast. But yeah, my motto has always been knowing thy enemy in order to protect yourself.

So, unfortunately, I have been bitten by more than 200 deer ticks in my life, and so even the best-laid attempts sometimes fail, although I have to admit, and I am not too proud of it, but sometimes, I don’t do enough to prevent them from getting on me, it allows me to collect them, to view them and learn more about them. So, fortunately, to my knowledge, I’ve never been diagnosed with a tick-borne illness, which is amazing.

Mimi: Wow, that’s amazing.

Dan: However, I was vaccinated back in the late ’90s.

Mimi: Oh, when they had the vaccine?

Dan: Yeah, and I don’t know what effect that might’ve had, but whatever it is, I knock wood all the time. So…

Mimi: Now, where do you live that you had the ability to get 200 ticks on you?

Dan: Well, I live in Eastern Massachusetts, so the Northeast and the Upper Midwest are two traditionally very ticky areas, although when I started learning about ticks and sort of doing my own personal research, this was about 25 years ago. So now, the tick problem is getting worse and worse and spreading very rapidly, and the landscape is a lot different now than it was back then, although given the circumstances, relatively speaking, in the Northeast, we were still considered a very ticky area compared to others in the country. But also, this is a global problem, and Lyme disease may not be at the forefront of some of these other ailments that we’re seeing in other parts of the world, but ticks are, and so they’re getting worse.

Mimi: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). And so how did you decide to create a tick remover?

Dan: Yeah. Well, it’s an interesting story. I’m an avid outdoorsman, I’m an avid sportsman, and I’ve studied intensively the phenomenon of suburban deer and how their populations have grown and how they spread, and it’s similar kind of close to what the ticks are doing because there is definitely a relationship between the amount of deer and the incidences of Lyme disease. So as a student of this phenomenon, I was spending tremendous amounts of time in the woods where the deer live and therefore, getting covered with ticks, and that’s how I would get so many bites over the years.

I mean, I figured, on average, I was getting between eight to 10 bites per year over more than a 20-year period. Although now, it seems to be a little less because I’m collecting them and being more aware, doing more tick checks myself, still using the ticks, and still keeping the ticks, but they’re not biting me quite as frequently. Although this year, for example, I had a couple of nymphs get through my defenses and were attached to me. So spending on that time, coming home with ticks on me, at that time, most of that time in the past, I was a single dad with a couple of dogs and two boys. There were ticks in the laundry room. I would pull my sheets back and there were ticks in the bed, there were ticks in the truck, and of course, on the dogs.

As I was talking about the spreading, in my town, Waltham, is pretty close to Boston, and so when I was getting all those ticks on me previously, I was more in, if it’s possible Western-Eastern Mass. Now, the ticks have spread to my town and even closer to Boston. So people just going on hikes in the park with their dogs and just doing stuff around the house were now exposed to the risks of ticks. So bringing them in, having to get them off of my kids and my dog, that worried me more than, believe it or not, me getting bitten.

What I did was I started looking online, all right, how do you properly remove a tick, because you hear so many things and so many things are wrong right now. I’m sure you’re aware of some of these old folklore remedies for removing ticks, put peppermint oil or Vaseline, whatever it is, there are two important things to really keep in mind, and that is simple is better, and you never want to agitate or anger that ticks or cause physical damage to certain parts of that ticks because what that does is that increases your exposure unnecessarily and more than what you normally would do if you are just making the simple approach, which is what everybody’s been recommending lately, a fine tip tweezer close to the skin surface, and simply squeezing firmly and removing steadily and slowly in an upward fashion, and I’m telling you, that is just the best way to go.

So, forget about all those other crazy things. I mean, what could be easier than, I happen to have a TickEase store right here, than basically just using this, and the angle on that is perfect. You really want to get right down to that kind of point on it. But the straight tip tweezers, if they’re sharp, will work, but what I did was I put an angle on it so that you can really get down close to the skin, squeeze and lift straight up, and it couldn’t be easier. This tool will last… it’s stainless steel, it’s not going to go anywhere unless you drop it or lose it. But you can just have this with you or have it in your medicine chest.

So you get that, you remove the tick with your TickEase, what else do you recommend doing? Do you recommend at that point going on antibiotics? Do you recommend putting something topical on there to maybe potentially kill anything that might’ve gone into the skin? Any other recommendations?

Preventing Ticks Isn’t Just One Dimensional

Dan: Another thing we have to remember is that tick prevention is like a whole bunch of different components. There isn’t one single thing, besides not getting bitten, that’s going to prevent your exposure to these microbes and pathogens that reside within the tick. So what we have to do is we have to make changes in lifestyle, simple things that we can do that will try to encompass all of these components, everything from the kind of clothing you’re wearing. They say wear light colored clothing. Well, light colored clothing doesn’t repel, it allows you to see them. And certain times of the year are harder than others because of the age of the tick or the size in particular, and we can talk about that as well in the lifecycle of the tick.

And when I say the tick, I’m referring to the black legged tick or the deer tick because that’s kind of my favorite one, and that’s the one that can cause the most trouble.

Mimi: Has a lot of different co-infections, plus…

Dan: It really is like the cesspool of…

Mimi: And are those the big ones or the smaller ones?

Dan: Those are the smaller ones. Deer ticks tend to be the smallest ticks that we have around in our area right now. I don’t know of any other smaller ticks than a deer tick.

Protecting Your Backyard and Home Space

Mimi: So I live on the East Coast part of the time. I’m totally usually against chemicals and anything in the grass, but at this point, I completely carpet-bomb my backyard. So there are ways, you can go the organic route or you can go the normal route, just spray. Are you obviously recommending doing that if you have a backyard?

Dan: Yeah, there’s a couple of things you can do residentially speaking. There are some things that can help you in your own little piece of the pie there, in your own little property. And I think that, really, it can help with the piece of land that you live on, but unless you have more widespread use, it’s really not going to make a huge difference overall.

Mimi: No, but just for your backyard, if you want to like you put your dogs out there or you’re back there with your kids, playground, whatever, you spray, you would recommend spraying?

Dan: I would recommend a couple of things, you can get tick tubes, you can make them, you can buy them. Thermacell now sells tick tubes. Those are designed to help with the ticks on the mice.

Mimi: Or rabbits. I heard rabbits have also a huge number of ticks, at least in Nantucket.

Dan: They are what you call a competent host. Meaning the bacteria and the parasites and viruses can all reside within that host. Certain mammals carry certain types of microbes that can be transmitted to the tick and then transmitted elsewhere. But the mouse seems to be the biggest culprit for the Lyme bacteria. So while rabbits and chipmunks and squirrels, they’re all hosts for these ticks, I’m just not quite sure about the other animals besides the mice as far as the prevalence of the Lyme bacteria. So the tick tubes will be placed strategically around your property and it has treated cotton in it that when the mouse uses it for their nest, the ticks will die on the mice and the mice will stay alive.

Mimi: So you get those at Home Depot or online? Do you have to go through a company? Where would you get one?

Dan: I believe most hardware stores will carry them. It’s called Thermacell Tick Control, and if I had prepared, I would’ve shown you a sample of one that I have.

Mimi: No, that’s fine. So the tubes are good, I didn’t know about that. You could spray for your backyard, you get a company to do that…

Dan: Couple of things about sprays for your yard. First of all, a lot of people don’t realize that there is a certain level of expertise that needs to be used by the companies or whoever is applying this product. First of all, it’s typically been tested to be a safe product. Of course, the organic ones are. I always lean towards, as you mentioned, carpet bombing, but carpet bombing is really the best suggestion, and it may be a little bit of overkill for your resources. So a perimeter spray is going to be most effective because what happens is we know that ticks don’t usually reside in open, sunny areas, like a manicured, for example. They will get there because animals are traipsing across that all time, deer coming in at night, and out, but they don’t typically like that. They dry out very, very easily, especially in the warmer months, and if the climate is dryer, that’s better. Up here, I know we have humidity and stuff like that, but they tend not to like the open space and sunny areas. So perimeter sprays are important.

Organic versus synthetics, I always go with the pyrethroid, and a pyrethroid is a family of chemicals that are derived from the Chrysanthemum flower. So it’s a natural product that’s been made in the lab, and it’s been used in a variety of different things, military uniforms, lice shampoo for kids, and a whole bunch of other stuff, for years and decades, and there are plenty of long-term studies that show it’s safe. It doesn’t metabolize as well as it should or we would like it to in cats, but for dogs and people and other mammals, it’s no problem, and that, you probably heard of, permethrin. That’s part of the pyrethroid family.

So when you do a perimeter spray, you want somebody that has the expertise to do one of two things. One is to have a high enough pressure applicator that you’re able to at least blow that first layer of the leaf that is up and over because doing a mosquito type of spray with misting or just spray isn’t going to penetrate down below where the ticks are hanging out, so a high pressure or enough liquid to soak down below that surface. So when you get a landscape service that may be great at cutting your grass and doing your leaves, if they tell you, oh, we can do tick sprays too, really check them out. Get somebody, make sure you ask those questions, how do you apply it and where do you apply it. Perimeter is good, and what it does, it creates a little barrier but it does need to be maintained regularly.

Mimi: It’s once a month, is it, or is it four times a year, or how often?

Dan: That’s not really my area, but I think, probably, depending on the rain and the weather and all that stuff, it may be needed to be applied more often 

Mimi: It’s not once a year, we know that.

Dan: No, no, no. It’s a regular thing, probably needs more treatments during high tick activity months, and there are a couple of periods of time during the year that we have extremely increased activity. Right now, we’re not going to see much tick activity with the snow cover and the cold weather we’re having up here in the Northeast at least, we won’t see any ticks for a while. But if the snow melts and you get a couple of days in the 40s and 50s, boom

Mimi: They come back out.

Dan: … are going to come right out and they’ll be all over you.

Mimi: So you’re going out, me, personally, or my kids or my dogs and we’re going for a walk in the woods, is there any kind of spray or essential oils that you would recommend putting on?

Dan:  I’m not a huge fan of the organic stuff. I just think it might lack, and it’s my opinion, I’ve been doing this a long time, it just lacks that punch that you really need. Permethrin is going to be, in my opinion, hands down, the most effective, it’s called an acaricide, it’s not even a repellent, it kills. I did a video, I went out and actually, in February, a few years ago, I was collecting ticks in Western Massachusetts at a rate of 40 to 50 an hour. It was freezing cold, we had a week where it was really warm and they were everywhere. So I placed them on these bandanas that I have and I have [crosstalk 00:15:24]…

Mimi: Do you have a video of that on YouTube?

Dan: I do, I do on my YouTube channel. If you just search TickEase on YouTube and you see my face, just click on my face, subscribe, we have about 45,000 subscribers. And I have lots of these gross videos where I’m pulling ticks off me and off of people and dogs and stuff like that, so if you like that kind of stuff, but it’s important and it’s educational as well. So you want to use permethrin, and we’re launching a permethrin-treated bandana for dogs right now. 

Mimi: Oh, that’s a great idea.

Dan: it’s an added layer of protection on top of your Seresto or your Frontline, or whatever you use. It’s not a replacement, but it’s here where the dogs are always sniffing around close to the ground and the grass. And if the ticks even are in direct contact with it for as little as 60 seconds, they will die a slow, painful death. And my video will show that they’re kind of twitching thereafter… they died in about 10 minutes.

Mimi: Yeah. Now do you sell a spray or do you recommend a brand?

Dan: Well, the two most popular brands right now are Sawyer. I don’t sell them, no, just the bandana for dogs, and we’re going to be launching that as a private label from a company called Insect Shield, which has a lot of different things. You may be aware of Insect Shield. They have clothing for people, they have dog blankets and beds and stuff, and I recommend them highly because again when you have a repellent and the dog comes in with a tick and it’s repelled, that tick is still alive. Now it’s in your house. My dogs used to… before I got recently married, my dogs used to sleep in the bed. That’s probably why I was getting them in the bed. But they have dog beds too that you can treat.

But the Sawyer’s product is a self-applying product where you would spray it, let it dry, and then use it. You don’t use it on your skin. And I think Insect Shield also has that product, but they can also sell you pretreated apparel, and you can treat your own clothing by sending it into them. They have a service that does that. So they have a great process for that. The difference is the self-applying permethrin spray is rated for about six launderings or washings. The pretreated Insect Shield is good for 70, so it lasts a long time.

Dan: So as far as repellents for your body, I would go on your clothing, I don’t feel that DEET products are terribly effective against ticks because if you think about it, where do ticks like to go? Tick Man Dan always says don’t neglect your crevices, and the ticks certainly don’t. So unless you’re kind of not all there in the smarts department, I don’t think you’re applying DEET directly to your crotch area or your-

Mimi: Right.

Dan: So what a tick, because they’re just so slow-moving and they breathe only a couple of times, every 15 minutes.

Mimi: So even if you spray your legs, they can still kind of crawl up without…

Dan: Yeah. They’re not like a mosquito that comes in and goes, “Whoa, eew, gross,” and flies. They’re like, oh, I don’t like this. I’m just going to try to find another area. Oh, up the shorts, and bingo, we’re good.

Mimi: Oh, I didn’t realize that.

Dan: Yeah. But DEET, certainly, I love for mosquitoes and biting flies and that kind of stuff. But I know that everybody recommends a DEET product when you’re out in the woods. It’s not going to hurt you unless you take a bath in it. And there are other safe type products now.

Somethings You Will Want To Know About Ticks

Mimi: So I have a question to ask you, have you found that some people, and I think I’m one of these people that’s why I’m asking, tend to attract ticks more than others because of their blood type or there’s something in their blood? I’ve heard people say that you’re missing something or you have something extra that they kind of get attracted to.

Dan: I feel blessed because I seem to be a tick magnet myself.

Mimi: Yeah, but it’s amazing that you haven’t gotten Lyme. Where was I? I was in Wyoming, and I wouldn’t even go on a hike and I was taking a photo lesson because my kids were doing something in the woods, and the guy said, “Oh, let’s go into the woods to take pictures.” I was like, “I’m not going into the woods to take a picture.” And he’s like, “Don’t worry, there are no ticks here. I’ve never seen a tick here.” And I was like, “Okay.” We go, we come back, I had a white sweater on, covered in ticks. He’s like, “I’ve been here for 15 years, I’ve never seen ticks. How do you have ticks on you?” And I was like, “I don’t know. I’m like a tick magnet.” So I think someone had said, oh, maybe you have something in your blood that kind of attracts. You know some people get more attractive to mosquitoes than other people?

Dan: Yeah. I mean, that’s certainly something of interest.

Mimi: You never heard that? Okay.

Dan: I mean, the problem is still going to be there, but there’s a couple of things that you need to know about ticks. There are certain types of ticks that rely on what they call questing rather than seeking you out. And then the other types of ticks are called hunters. So you have questers and hunters. Now, a quester, like the one on my shirt, this deer tick, and deer ticks are questers, they have little organs here on the top of their, what people refer to as a head. They don’t really have heads. And these are called Haller’s organs. The deer ticks are not very developed and they don’t work very well. On the other side of things, like a lone star tick, has extremely sensitive organs for detecting carbon dioxide and heat and motion. So they’ll actually seek you out and run as fast as they can towards you.

Now I don’t know if more people have more hot air coming out of them or just tend to be more attractive in whatever ways. I mean, I suppose it’s possible, but they’ll run at you. In my situation, I walk through the woods, and usually, when you’re walking with other people, you tend to walk single file because deer ticks are questers with little sticky pads and hooks on the end of their two front legs, they’ll wait at the tip of a piece of grass or a brush or a leaf and just hang out. If they can detect that you’re coming, they’ll kind of wiggle. And anything that brushes by, they stick to like Velcro. So the first person that walks to the woods single file is most likely to get more ticks than the third person or the last person. And so people often say, hey, we’re together, how come you have 12 ticks and I don’t have any? Well, it’s probably because I’m walking first. So questers versus hunters, dog ticks, brown ticks, and lone star ticks in our area are hunters that develop censors and the deer ticks are questers. So it’s important to know that.

We went on a tick hunt with Dr. Tom Mather with tickencounter.org and we were on conservation land, again, in West, and they cut a path through about maybe belly high grasses for people to walk with their dogs, and on the sunny side of that, we found 188 ticks in an hour and a half right on the edge of the trail. So, I mean, they’re not dumb, and that’s where most people are picking up their ticks, so they know.

Mimi: That’s crazy. Okay, so when you get home from being out, you recommend checking, as you said, the crevices to make sure, self-check, right, that’s super important.

Dan: Well, these are the components. And we’re also launching a product within the next 12 to 18 months called The Complete Tick Kit, in conjunction with the University of Massachusetts and the University of Rhode Island with Dr. Mather and Dr. Steve Rich, and that, basically, I always use this example, little Johnny comes to the front door and says, “Mommy, what’s this?” And there’s an engorged deer tick behind little Johnny’s ear, well, mommy or daddy can then grab the kit, or in the absence of the kit, there’s a few steps that they need to take, and these are very important.

Under normal circumstances, whenever anybody is out in an area where there are ticks when you get home, you should shed your clothes right away. There’s a video on my YouTube channel, it’s a PSA, which goes through the whole process of proper tick checking for yourself, your kids, and your animals, and it goes through all of this stuff. But when you get to the door, take off the clothes. The first thing you do, throw them in a hot dryer. Don’t wash them first, don’t take a shower first, throw the clothes right away in a hot dryer, depends on what time of the year it is, colder weather gear takes longer for the heat to get in because it’s more insulated than a t-shirt or undergarments. So keep them in a little longer and if it’s thicker clothing, turn them inside out if you want.

While you don’t have your clothes on, do a head-to-toe tick check there with your kids. You can use a flashlight, a magnifying glass. We know nymphal stage ticks are active in the spring through mid-summer-ish, and we know adult ticks are active, they take over from that point into the following spring. So the little ones are much harder to find, so you really have to be more vigilant in your searching for the nymphs because they’re about the size of, I don’t know if you can see these guys here, you see those little specks?

Mimi: Yes, that how small they are?

Dan: The little ones are the nymphs.

Mimi: Wow. That nymph is tiny, like the size of an end of a pencil.

Dan: Yeah. Then the larval ticks are even smaller. So, do a full tick check, then if you want to take a shower, that’s fine. Typically, if a tick is attached to you, a shower isn’t going to do anything. Ticks can live for days underwater. I mean, they don’t breathe very well but still.

Mimi: So if you jump in a hot tub, it doesn’t help either?

Dan: No, actually, they’d probably like that. Get them set up with a cocktail.

Mimi: It wouldn’t kill them or get them off?

Dan: No, I mean, unless you were in there for two or three days, I don’t think it would affect the tick too much. Once they’re in and seating, it’s really hard for them to get out. That’s why these methods of removal, peppermint oil or something, agitates them. They can’t pull themselves right out real quick because of barbs on their mouth parts and the glue they used to secure them inside the skin, so back to what you should do. All right, so that’s in the case of just coming home, clothes in a hot dryer, get naked, clothes in a hot dryer check yourself, shower up, and then go on with your life.

In the case of an attached tick, your steps are a little bit different and there’s a lot of options when it comes to that. Now, you can do the same thing, but if you do discover a tick, wherever it may be, what you want to do is you want to remove it properly and promptly. The longer a tick is attached, the more exposed you can get to the microbes residing within that tick, and then now can carry viruses, parasites, and bacteria.

Can a tick carry COVID? Perhaps. That’s not a good thing. Tom Frieden of the CDC… a former director of the CDC was interviewed about COVID and he said, these pandemics, we’re going to start to see them more as climate change affects the planet. And as bad as COVID is, he was worried about what ticks and mosquitoes are now going to start to bring. And he said, unfortunately, the potential is for much worse types of pandemics that have a higher mortality rate. So let’s keep that in mind. That’s a scary, scary thing because we see now what this COVID is doing, and imagine, an Ebola, with that type of contagious nature or infectious nature, it’s not a good thing.

So, anyway, so you’ve got the tick on you, you want to get it off as quickly as possible properly. People don’t understand, improper tick removal can result in increased exposure to these pathogens. So it’s very important. People just don’t have that good information. They’ll go to Amazon and say, okay, what do I need to properly remove this tick?

They’ll see 20 different items and only sharp tip tweezers, with some exceptions for animals, a slotted scoop method, which is what I refer to it as, is good for getting engorged ticks primarily on animals off of you, and it’s really a simple thing. Again, you wiggle it under the tick like this and you lift straight up. And again, if you go to the YouTube channel, you can see a ton of me taking ticks off of my animals. So, putting stuff on it, no good. You want to use that sharp tweezer. You don’t have to use a TickEase device, which is mine, but sharp tweezers work best. Mine has the advantage of having the two sides and the angle on that tweezer. You go in and you remove the tick, now what? People are like, oh, flush the thing, burn it, kill it.

Mimi: Mm-mm (negative), save it.

Dan: Save the tick. Please, save the ticks. So you want to put that in a Ziploc bag. I have these little ones that are perfect, but a regular sandwich or snack Ziploc works. You don’t have to freeze it or anything, it’ll die inside in a couple of days, or usually, overnight just because of the humidity levels inside. They don’t like it. They desiccate very quickly.

And then you have the option, okay, now, what do I do? Well, I can’t tell you specifically. I’m not a doctor, I just know from experience that you want to watch the bite site. First of all, when you remove the tick, you want to clean your instrument, you want to clean, soap and water or alcohol, just clean the bite site. You don’t need a bandaid. You can’t really do anything topically on that bite site to reduce what you’ve already been exposed to.

Mimi: You wouldn’t put silver or anything that’s antimicrobial or antiviral or…?

Dan: It’s not going to hurt because sometimes, you can get a localized skin infection that has really nothing to do with any type of microbe that has been brought to you through the saliva of that tick. So, yeah, you can reduce those chances. So the bite site versus Lyme rash, I mean, this is an important thing because people say, oh… I’ve seen a lot of people come and say, “I’ve got Lyme. This is a terrible rash.” Well, it’s the bite site reaction. I get a very bad bite site reaction but I’ve never had a Lyme rash. It is characterized by an expanding circular, it doesn’t have to be circular, it can be irregularly shaped. Doesn’t necessarily have to be right at the bite site, although most likely, it is, and not everybody gets it.

Mimi: Right. It’s a very small percent… I don’t even know it is, like 30% of the people or 20%?

Dan: I heard a little… maybe closer to 50%, but…

Mimi: Yeah, I didn’t get a rash.

Dan: But I can promise you that if you do have a tick bite and you do get erythema migrans, which is the scientific term, you have Lyme.

Tick-Borne Illnesses and What To Do When You’ve Been Bitten

Mimi: Yup. I would love to hear your opinion. You know they always tell you, it needs to be attached for 24 hours before you could… do you believe that?

Dan: I think it’s possible that a tick can transmit anything very quickly given the right circumstances. What I’ve heard, and I’ll kind of refrain from giving you my opinion directly on that, but I can tell you what I’ve learned and known what I know about ticks through my scientist friends, the Lyme bacteria, I’m talking about Lyme, resides in the midgut or the belly or the abdomen of that tick. And knowing the lifecycle of a tick, sometimes, they won’t feed for eight months at a time. They feed three times. The female ticks feed three times in a 24-month period because they live two years. They only feed when they’re transitioning to a different stage of life or right before they either die or lay eggs or both.

So that bacteria, and by the way, there’s another fascinating fact about the ticks is that knowing that they live in areas where it’s freezing cold in the winter, they easily survive that because the body produces a substance called glycerol, which is antifreeze for the cells. They go into a state called diapause. It’s not literally hibernation, but they kind of curl up and they look dead and once it gets warm, they start to free themselves of that state. So the glycerol is a substance that keeps them alive, but it feeds the Lyme bacteria. It’s a food source for them. So its stuff is pretty cool. So when that Lyme bacteria is kind of inactive inside that tick’s gut, it takes a while for it to kind of wake up. It’s like being out of… the Lyme bacteria has got to hibernate. When a tick starts to feed, certain changes happen within that tick’s body and they’re secreting all sorts of proteins and substances, or they have antimicrobial, they have a pain-killing substance, they have an anticoagulant that keeps the blood flowing, I mean, this is what I was talking about that’s wild stuff, but all of this takes energy and activity from within the tick itself.

And that’s what I think kind of shakes the bacteria away and then allows for it to make the trek up into the salivary glands and then can be spit back into the host. So if you think about it that way, which I do, it takes a while. I don’t know how long. And knowing that, usually, when a tick attaches, it’s going to stay there unless someone pulls it off or it finishes feeding, which can take several days. So the only other option would be if it started feeding on somebody or something and somehow, it got out before it finished feeding and then somehow found you, I think it could transmit it right away because all of that process has already taken place.

Mimi: Right, especially if it’s broken your skin. Because mine, when I found my tick, it had only been on me for a couple of hours. And I got or end up getting Lyme. Now, I tell people, if they call me and they’re like, I got bitten by a tick, what should I do? I’m like, I would go take the antibiotics right away, even if you don’t know how long it’s been on because even if it’s under 24 hours, why take the chance?

Dan: I agree with that. I think you have to be careful no matter what. The rule of thumb is to get the tick off as soon as possible and as properly as possible. If you’re out camping and you have no way to remove that tick, then you got to do what you got to do, scrape it off, pick it off as best you can without squeezing the body. 

Mimi: See, that’s what I did. I think I was in a car and I was so grossed out this thing was attached that I just used a credit card…. which I know was probably… maybe it made it worse.

Dan: Well, it’s possible, but I think it’s better to do that than to go, okay, I’ll wait until tomorrow when I have a tweezer or I have someone else, or I can go to the urgent care place. If you do it right and you learn how to use the right tool, you don’t have to go to the ER or the urgent care facility. But another important thing to really keep in mind is that ticks are carrying a dozen or more different pathogens and the transmission times are different for each type of pathogen. So regardless of, oh, I’m safe, I’m not going to get Lyme because I got it out within a couple of hours, well, you might get anaplasmosis, or Babesia, or tularemia or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. So, listen, folks. Just get it off and get it off correctly.

Mimi: Do you need to test for the tick even if you plan on taking the antibiotics right away?

Dan: Well, there’s a couple of trains of thought. I like to know, for my own peace of mind, what that tick was carrying, and nowadays, using a couple of different resources, including the testing resource, I like tickreport.com at UMass, and you can use some free resources at the University of Rhode Island, it’s under tickencounter.org, under their Tick Spotters tab, it’s a free service. But the more information, the better.

Some people will save the tick and wait and just see. All right, well, two weeks have passed, I’m okay. I’m going to just go on with my life. That’s one way of looking at it. The other way of looking at it is you could automatically go and get a prophylactic dose of doxycycline. Now there’s a big controversy about that. Some people say, well, it’s not going to help you. I kind of think it’s not really going to hurt 100, 200-milligram dose of doxy may not hurt, and if you feel better about yourself doing it, fine, but don’t let your guard down with the other information.

And some other physicians or some other people who’d say, I don’t care, I’m going on a month of doxy, and that should take care of it. Well, that could, but then what if you were infected with a parasite like Babesia? Well, antibiotics aren’t used for parasitic infection, it’s an anti-malarial medication. So the problem is the symptoms of a lot of these illnesses are very, very similar in their onset.

Mimi: Yeah, you don’t know what they are. And most of these testing places test for most of these co-factors?

Dan: Yeah. Well, they take some things into consideration. For example, first of all, the data is only as good as what we have. Fortunately, a lot more people are using testing services. So in high tick areas like the Northeast and the Upper Midwest, we have a pretty good database and we can be pretty accurate as to determining or predicting what types of illnesses are trending in those areas. For example, Lyme might not be on the rise but Babesia may be increasing by 20%, 30%, 40%, same with anaplasmosis. So it’s important to know that and that information is important for your physician.

Mimi: So if you save the tick and you send it in, they’re going to get information, where were you bitten, when, what time of the year. If you go to that Tick Spotters tab of TickEncounter, they’ll determine how long was the tick beating, what stage of life was the tick, what type of tick it is, where were you and what type of the year was it, and they’ll categorize you in a low, moderate, or high-risk group. For each of those categories, you have a set of options that you can take that they provide to you for free. It’s fantastic what we can do now. That’s important information and again, you just want to know, if that tick is negative for Lyme and you’re pretty sure that, that’s the only tick that’s bitten you in those few days, you know not to treat it or not to think it’s Babesia or one of the other illnesses. Conversely, it’s the same thing.

Dan: All of that information helps. So if you take these steps, proper removal, save the tick, watch your bite site, do whatever you want with the antibiotics, get the risk assessment, get the tick tested, and as you mentioned, you can go with a couple of different options, the standard five pathogens that are tested for in the tick right now from UMass are the Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the Lyme, there’s a Borrelia miyamotoi, which is a sort of a variation of the Lyme bacteria. It’s another type of Borrelia. And then you have anaplasmosis, Babesia, and Powassan. So they figured that that covers pretty much what they’re seeing in the ticks in our area.

Where to Find Tick Man Dan and Other Great Resources!

Dan: You can go with their full panel. It’s more expensive and there is a fee associated. Sometimes, they have subsidized programs, but you can go with the full panel, which does everything. I think that runs about $200. But if your viewers and listeners want to save $5 and they use the promo code, TickEase, all one word, they can save $5 on their tick test.

Mimi: Where do they go to take the tick test?

Dan: That’s tickreport.com, and that’s all run out of University of Massachusetts and they turn it around in 72 hours and the PCR testing is virtually 100% accurate, 99.9% because of the DNA test, and they have step-by-step instructions there as well. 

Mimi: This is great. Thank you.

Dan: These are very critical steps in what you do when you are bitten, but prior to being bitten, you want to check yourselves and don’t neglect your crevices, for sure.

Mimi: This has been amazing.

Dan: Well, you can call me anytime, you can visit me. We have a toll-free number, it’s (855) TICK-READY, and the TickEase product is available on my website at tickease.com. Now you can contact me through there, I’ll be happy to talk to you. You can get it on Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart’s running a Clip Strip program, and we’re on Ace Hardware and Sportsman’s Warehouse now.

Mimi: And you also have a lot of resources on your website, so that’s a great place for people to go check out as well.

Dan: Certainly do. And again, just reach out to me if you have any questions.

Each week, I will bring you different voices from the wellness community so that they can share how they help their clients heal. You will come away with tips and strategies to help you get your life get back. Thank you so much for coming on and I’m so happy you are here. Subscribe now and tune in next week. 

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