How to Remove a Tick

Every few weeks I escape the Monday to Friday routine by meeting up with a fellow self employed friend and together, we skive off for a few hours feeling the freedom of being in the bush and going for a hike whilst most other people are at work, keeping their wilderness dreams for the weekend.

We don’t usually venture too far from home and living in Sydney means that we are not only surrounded by National Parks, but we have several of them running straight through our midst.

And so we met under the Roseville Bridge at Davidson Park in Garigal National Park at 7.30am, with everything we need for a day hike, with the aim to do a quick 16km return trip following Middle Harbour upstream to an area called The Cascades.

How to Remove a Tick
Heading towards The Cascades, Garigal NP.

As I drove away from my house, I found myself smiling that the sky was grey and overcast and that it had been raining throughout the night. There’s something quite wonderful about changes in the weather and after a spate of sunny days, the cooler, damp skies actually brought me delight.

I’ve walked this track many times before, but after the first 1km I knew that this time would be different. After all the rain, the bush colours had come alive with eucalypt trunks almost glowing with their silvers, oranges and reds, whilst the countless creeks and waterfalls (most of which are normally dry) just couldn’t help themselves but to purge their babbling waters forth, towards Middle Harbour and the sea.


We made good pace towards our morning tea spot at The Cascades and what with all the water around I was expecting to find a few hitchhiking leeches and I wasn’t disappointed. Whilst we filled our tummies with morning tea, I pulled off 3 leeches who clearly had had theirs as well.

How to Remove a Tick
2 of the hungry leeches I pulled off, left to eat another day at The Cascades!

As we turned to head for home, I decided to take a slightly more adventurous (OK, partially exploratory) route back. I’m not usually a fan of a return trip and prefer circuit routes wherever possible. Let’s just say that the 16kms turned in 21kms and included crossing knee deep creeks swollen from not just the rain, but the incoming tide, sliding down a few off-track 1.5m high ledges and pushing through a bit of scrub. All this, with houses within 500m, but so well hidden that you’d never know.

All up, a great day out, albeit finishing 2hrs late at 2.30pm, however it was when I got home that I found myself saying…

“Damn you, you little bastard.”

Caro Ryan

This time, it was a different and more sinister kind of hitchhiker – a tick.

There’s been a lot of talk lately in Australia about strange illnesses or allergies that can be caused by tick bites, not to mention death or paralysis in animals. So it’s no surprise that most people’s reaction to a tick bite is to freak out a little and want to wrench the little critter out with their finger nails straight away. However fingernails (and tweezers) are a pretty effective method in forcing the tick saliva into your body, which is the last thing you want. I like the saying, ‘household tweezers are tick squeezers.’

According to the most recent research by TIARA (Tick Induced Allergies Research & Awareness), here’s the best method.

How to remove a tick:

How to Remove a Tick
You little bastard!
  1. For Adult Ticks: Kill the tick where it is by using an ether-containing spray. (eg. Tick Off Freezing Spray).
  2. Wait for it to drop off or seek medical attention for it to be removed.
  3. Do NOT squeeze the tick as this causes tick saliva to enter your body.
  4. For Tiny Ticks: Just dab (don’t grab!) with a permethrin based cream, available from chemists. It’s usually the same stuff used to treat scabies! That is enough to kill them.

This method is relatively new and as a result, NSW Health can’t wave this flag about until they see the evidence. Therefore, if you’re the type of person to only do what the government recommends, you may want to check out the current ‘official’ method endorsed by them.

How to prevent a tick bite

Obviously, the best method is to prevent ticks in the first place by:

  • wearing long sleeved shirts and pants
  • tuck pants into your socks and wear a wide-brimmed hat
  • wearing light coloured clothing makes it easier to see ticks
  • use good insect repellent (with DEET) eg. Tropical RID, Tropical Aerogard or Bushmans
  • use permethrin treated clothing
  • check yourself… everywhere. Yes, everywhere as soon as you can after leaving a tick-ey area.

Is there Lyme Disease in Australia?

There’s a stack of controversy in Australia at the moment, as the Australian Government Health Department can’t bring itself to say that Lyme Disease exists in Australia – a tick borne disease that is prevalent elsewhere in the world. I’ve seen some pretty strong stories and documentaries from people who are suffering from Lyme (and other Chronic Fatigue-esque like symptoms) that come from these little suckers. Whatever the truth is (they currently say there is ‘LLD – Lyme Like Disease’), what is important is that we know how to treat them and deal with them quickly, never leaving them to spread their vile evil (ooo anagram!) goo into our bodies.

How to Remove a Tick
An adult tick prior to digging itself in… this one didn’t stand a chance!

Writer, producer and content creator by trade, search and rescue volunteer by passion, Caro Ryan started to inspire, teach and encourage people to get into hiking and the outdoors safely.

It’s all about connecting people to wild places in meaningful ways, so they can look after themselves, their mates and these precious places we visit.

She teaches wilderness navigation, authored the book, ‘How to Navigate’ and hosts, ‘Rescued - an Outdoor Podcast for Hikers and Adventurers.

In the bottom of her pack you'll find coffee grounds, instant noodles past their used by date and an insatiable curiosity.

Bushwalking & Hiking Tips from an Unexpected Outdoors Chick

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