- Tick Removal
- The Worst Ways to Remove a Tick
- Popular Tick Removal Methods — That Don’t Actually Work
- Burn It With a Hot Match
- Smother It With Petroleum Jelly
- Coat It With Nail Polish
- Pour Rubbing Alcohol on It
- Unscrew It
- Should You Use Liqu >
- What’s True
- What’s False
- How to Remove a Tick
- In this Article
- Remove Ticks the Right Way
- What Do I Do With the Extracted Tick?
- When Should I Call My Doctor?
- Learn how to remove an attached tick
- How to remove an attached tick safely, directly, and effectively
- Tick removal
- When to Contact a Medical Professional
If you find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic—the key is to remove the tick as soon as possible. There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers work very well.
How to remove a tick
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.
People who have removed a tick sometimes wonder if they should have it tested for evidence of infection. Although some commercial groups offer testing, in general this is not recommended because:
- Laboratories that conduct tick testing are not required to have the high standards of quality control used by clinical diagnostic laboratories. Results of tick testing should not be used for treatment decisions.
- Positive results showing that the tick contains a disease-causing organism do not necessarily mean that you have been infected.
- Negative results can lead to false assurance. You may have been unknowingly bitten by a different tick that was infected.
- If you have been infected, you will probably develop symptoms before results of the tick test are available. If you do become ill, you should not wait for tick testing results before beginning appropriate treatment.
However, you may want to learn to identify various ticks. Different ticks live in different parts of the country and transmit different diseases.
Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not waiting for it to detach.
The Worst Ways to Remove a Tick
Popular Tick Removal Methods — That Don’t Actually Work
Animals & Nature
Is there anything worse than finding a tick embedded in your skin? Besides the ick factor, tick bites are a definite cause for concern, because many ticks transmit disease-causing pathogens. In general, the faster you remove the tick, the less your chance of getting Lyme disease or other tick-borne illnesses.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad information being shared about how to remove ticks from your skin. Some people swear that these methods work, but scientific studies have proven them wrong. If you have a tick embedded in your skin, please read carefully. These are the 5 worst ways to remove a tick.
Burn It With a Hot Match
Why people think it works: The working theory here is that if you hold something hot against the tick’s body, it will become so uncomfortable it will let go and flee.
Dr. Glen Needham of Ohio State University found that holding a hot match against an embedded tick did nothing to convince the tick to let go. Needham also noted that this tick removal strategy actually increases your risk of pathogen exposure. Heating the tick can cause it to rupture, increasing your exposure to any diseases it may carry. Also, heat makes the tick salivate, and sometimes even regurgitate, again increasing your exposure to pathogens in the tick’s body. And do I need to mention that you can burn yourself trying to hold a hot match against a tiny tick on your skin?
Smother It With Petroleum Jelly
Why people think it works: If you completely cover the tick with something thick and gooey like petroleum jelly, it won’t be able to breathe and will have to back out to keep from suffocating.
This is an interesting idea that has some basis in reality, since ticks breathe via spiracles and not their mouths. But whoever hatched this theory didn’t have a complete understanding of tick physiology. Ticks, according to Needham, have extremely slow respiration rates. When a tick is moving about, it may only breathe 15 times in an hour; while resting comfortably on a host, doing nothing more than feeding, it breathes as little as 4 times per hour. So smothering it with petroleum jelly could take a very long time. It’s a lot quicker to simply pluck the tick off with tweezers.
Coat It With Nail Polish
Why people think it works: This folklore method follows the same reasoning as the petroleum jelly technique. If you completely cover the tick in nail polish, it will start to suffocate and give up its grip.
Smothering a tick with nail polish is just as ineffective, if not more so. Needham determined that once the nail polish hardened, the tick became immobilized and was therefore unable to retreat from the host. If you coat a tick with nail polish, you are simply securing it in place.
Pour Rubbing Alcohol on It
Why people think it works: Maybe because they read it in Readers’ Digest? We’re not sure of their source for this tidbit, but Readers’ Digest has claimed “ticks hate the taste of rubbing alcohol.” Perhaps they think a tick doused in rubbing alcohol will loosen its grip in order to spit and cough in disgust?
However, rubbing alcohol isn’t without merit when it comes to removing ticks. It is good practice to clean the affected area with rubbing alcohol to prevent infection of the tick bite wound. But that, according to Dr. Needham, is the sole benefit of putting rubbing alcohol on a tick. It does nothing to convince the tick to go.
Why people think it works: The theory here is that by grabbing and twisting the tick, it will somehow be forced to lose its grip and pop free of your skin.
Dr. Elisa McNeill of Texas A&M University has an amusing retort for this tick removal method – tick mouthparts are not threaded (like screws)! You cannot unscrew a tick. The reason a tick can maintain such a good hold on your skin is because it has lateral barbs extending from its mouthparts to anchor it in place. Hard ticks also produce a cement of sorts to fasten themselves down. So all that twisting isn’t going to get you anywhere. If you twist an embedded tick, you will most likely succeed in separating its body from its head, and the head will remain stuck in your skin where it can become infected.
Now that you know the wrong ways to remove ticks, learn how to remove a tick safely and effectively (from the Centers for Disease Control). Or better yet, follow these tips for avoiding ticks so you never have to remove one from your skin.
Should You Use Liqu >
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Swabbing ticks with liquid soap is a recommended and effective method for removing them.
Swabbing liquid soap on ticks may sometimes help remove them.
Using liquid soap to remove ticks is not a effective method of tick removal recommended by experts.
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In addition to their being repulsive-looking bugs that survive by latching onto warm-blooded victims to suck blood from them, there is another reason to regard ticks with horror: they can deliver a deadly payload of disease to those they are making a meal of. These arachnids feed by burrowing their heads into skin, a method that introduces their body fluids into their victims. If those fluids are disease-laden, those microbes will be passed to the ones being dined upon. However, it generally takes at least 12 to of feeding before an infected tick can spread disease to its host, so speedy removal of these parasites is therefore key to avoiding tick-borne illness, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichia.
Household lore is replete with tick removal suggestions that involve covering or coating the embedded arachnid with a substance it will find objectionable. Other long-lived suggestions for removing ticks include touching a lit match or hot needle to the tick’s rear, swabbing the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, and tickling the tick’s underside in an effort to persuade it to release its bite:
A School Nurse has written the info enough to it really works!!
“I had a pediatrician tell me what she believes is the best way to remove a tick. This is great, because it works in those places where it’s some times difficult to get to with tweezers: between toes, in the middle of a head full of dark hair, etc.
Apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball. Cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball and swab it for a few seconds the tick will come out on it’s own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift it away.
This technique has worked every time I’ve used it (and that was frequently), and it’s much less traumatic for the patient and easier for me.
Unless someone is allergic to soap, I can’t see that this would be damaging in any way. I even had my doctor’s wife call me for advice because she had one stuck to her back and she couldn’t reach it with tweezers. She used this method and immediately called me back to say, ‘It worked!’”
Although these home remedies are effective in some cases, however, those in the know about tick removal warn against them. Countermeasures of such nature don’t always work to encourage ticks to detach from skin promptly (if at all), and even if such measures do seemingly aid the process of removing the critters, they may also make matters worse by stimulating the creatures to release additional saliva or regurgitate their gut contents, acts that increase the chance of their transmitting pathogens to their hosts. A 2006 journal article review of published literature on tick removal methods reported that:
One study compared several different techniques for removing ticks. Application of petroleum jelly, fingernail polish, 70% isopropyl alcohol, or a hot kitchen match failed to induce detachment of adult American dog ticks.
Experimental evidence suggests that chemical irritants are ineffective at persuading ticks to detach, and risk triggering injection of salivary fluids and possible transmission of disease-causing microbes. In addition, suffocating ticks by smothering them with petroleum jelly is an ineffective method of killing them because they have such a low respiratory rate (only requiring breaths per hour) that by the time they die, there may have been sufficient time for pathogens to be transmitted.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) likewise advises readers to “Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as wait for it to detach.”
Similarly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions:
If a tick is removed within 24 hours, the chances of it transmitting Lyme disease or other infections are much less. Use fine-point tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull gently. Avoid squeezing the body of the tick. Clean the site of the bite, your hands and the tweezers with disinfectant. You may want to wear protective gloves.
You also may want to place the tick in a small container, like a pill container, and bring it to your vet for identification. Never use a burned match, petroleum jelly, or nail polish to try to remove ticks. These methods are ineffective.
A list of “DO NOTS” in a Medline Plus article about tick removal similarly warned:
Do NOT try to burn the tick with a match or other hot object.
Do NOT twist the tick when pulling it out.
Do NOT try to kill, smother, or lubricate the tick with oil, alcohol, vaseline, or similar material.
The recommended procedure for removing ticks is:
- Grasp the tick close to its head or mouth with tweezers. Do not use your bare fingers. If needed, use a tissue or paper towel.
- Pull it straight out with a slow and steady motion. Avoid squeezing or crushing the tick. Be careful not to leave the head embedded in the skin.
- Clean the area thoroughly with soap and water. Also wash your hands thoroughly.
- Save the tick in a jar and watch carefully for the next week or two for signs of Lyme disease.
- If all parts of the tick cannot be removed, get medical help. Bring the tick in the jar to your doctor’s appointment.
To reduce your chances of becoming a tick’s dinner:
- Avoid tick-prone areas whenever possible.
- When in areas where ticks may be present, wear clothing that covers the arms and legs, with cuffs fastened and pants tucked into boots and socks.
- Use a tick repellent that contains DEET and reapply it every for maximum protection.
After any outdoor excursion into areas where ticks are commonly found, adults should check themselves and their children. Your four-legged friends should be checked for ticks too, because dogs and cats can also be felled by the diseases spread by these blood-sucking creatures.
|Tick Removal ( Centers for Disease Control )|
|How to Remove a Tick ( U.S. Food and Drug Administration )|
Published 3 July 2006
Fite, Amanda. “Once Bitten; Summer Pests Pack More Than an Itch.”
Tulsa World. 25 July 2001.
The Washington Post. “Tick Bites.”
23 July 2002 (p. F2).
How to Remove a Tick
In this Article
In this Article
In this Article
Everyone and their uncle has a favorite method for removing a tick — from burning it with a cigarette to smothering it in petroleum jelly or painting it with nail polish. But that’s not how you should go about it.
To safely remove a tick, all you really need is a pair of pointy tweezers and a good eye.
Remove Ticks the Right Way
Before you dive in, you’ll want to get:
- Pointy tweezers
- Rubbing alcohol (If you don’t have it, soap and water works, too)
Pointy tweezers aren’t the typical household tweezers that you use to pluck your eyebrows. You want pointy tips, not squared-off ones. Ticks can be as small as poppy seeds. If you use regular tweezers, you might tear them.
Once you have your tools, here’s what to do:
- Clean the area around the tick bite with rubbing alcohol.
- Get your tweezers right down on your skin so you can grab as close as possible to the tick’s head.
- Pull up slow and firm. Don’t jerk or twist; a nice, steady pressure straight up will do.
- Clean the bite area again, and your hands, with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
And that’s it. If the part of the head breaks off when you pull the tick out, that’s OK. You can try to remove it with tweezers, but if you can’t, it’s no problem. Your skin will heal.
What Do I Do With the Extracted Tick?
You have two options: Get it tested or get rid of it.
Send a tick for testing: It can help to get the tick tested so you’ll know if it was carrying any diseases it might have given you. To do this, place it in a sealed container along with a blade of grass to keep it alive. Then, take it for testing.
Some state agencies do tick testing, but if you’re not sure where to send the tick, ask your doctor.
Get rid of a tick: If you just want it safely out of your life, you can:
- Drown it in a container with rubbing alcohol or soapy water
- Flush it down the toilet
- Wrap it tightly in tape, then throw it out
Whatever you do, avoid the temptation to crush it with your fingers. This is another way you can get disease from it.
When Should I Call My Doctor?
Call your doctor if you have any symptoms of Lyme or other diseases carried by ticks, such as:
Make sure to tell your doctor that you had a tick bite, how long ago it happened, and where you might have gotten it.
This is a good reason to get the tested. Tick diseases have similar symptoms to each other and to a lot of other illnesses. It can help to know what it was carrying.
CDC: “Tick Removal.”
University of Rhode Island TickEncounter Resource Center: “How to Remove a Tick.”
Illinois Department of Public Health: “Common Ticks.”
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, “Tick Management Handbook.”
Learn how to remove an attached tick
Q: Any suggestions for removing a tick?
A: Let’s face it: Ticks are no fun. You might even say, “They really bite!” The mouthparts on these little critters are barbed, so once they get a good bite, they are tough to remove. Some ticks even secrete a cement-like material that helps them to adhere to the skin better. Now, that’s a sticky situation!
Laboratory studies have shown that in Lyme disease, for example, the longer a tick is attached to the skin, the greater the risk of transmission of the disease. The good news is that some ticks can be on human skin for 1 to 2 hours before attachment even takes place. For this reason, close and regular inspection of ALL BODY PARTS should be performed when traveling in tick-infested areas.
Protective clothing (for example, long pants cinched at the ankles or tucked into boots or socks) is also helpful for keeping ticks off your skin. Spraying clothes with an insect repellent may also provide some additional protection. Any loose ticks can be removed with duct tape or the edge of a credit card.
If you find an attached tick, however, get ready to remove it as soon as possible. Why the sense of urgency? Because quick and correct removal of attached ticks — ideally, within 24 hours of attachment! — can greatly reduce the likelihood of disease transmission from tick to human.
Know that improper removal of a tick can lead to a “host” of problems (blood-sucking joke fully intended!). You see, any tick parts left behind in the skin can lead to a foreign body reaction in which your body’s own immune system revs up and tries to fight off the intruding tick parts. The problem, here, is that the inflammation that follows can allow for infections to set-in more easily.
How to remove an attached tick safely, directly, and effectively
1. Always start by washing your hands.
2. “Glove-up” if possible. Don’t worry, though, because you will not be touching the tick directly. Doing so might allow the tick to bite you — duh!
3. Get a quality pair of fine-tipped forceps. Don’t waste your money on expensive tick-removal kits. A good pair of forceps does an excellent job and comes in handy for other medical emergencies, as well.
4. With your forceps, grab the attached tick as close to the skin (i.e., as far up on the tick’s head) as possible.
5. Gently pull the tick out counter to the direction that the mouth parts entered the skin. In other words, back the tick out in reverse! Use a steady, constant motion, and move in a straight line, being careful not to twist, jerk, or turn the forceps. Also, be careful not to squeeze the tick’s body too much because doing so might squeeze tick guts and contents all over the area. Yuck!
6. Once you remove it, consider saving the tick in a sealable container for identification purposes.
7. Next, cleanse the skin with an antiseptic or soap and water. You can also apply an antibiotic ointment if you have one.
8. Wash your hands and go about the rest of your day.
Avoid using “home remedy” methods of tick removal, such as rubbing fingernail polish or vaseline petrolatum, using rubbing alcohol, or applying a hot extinguished match directly to the tick. In general, these methods do not result in tick detachment. More importantly, some of these methods may actually induce the tick to salivate (drool!) or regurgitate (puke!) into the wound. Double yuck!
Wash your hands with soap and warm water after dealing with a tick. If you develop a rash or flulike symptoms or otherwise feel ill in days or weeks after being bitten by a tick, talk to your doctor.
Ticks are small, insect-like creatures that live in woods and fields. They attach to you as you brush past bushes, plants, and grass. Once on you, ticks often move to a warm, moist location. They are often found in the armpits, groin, and hair. Ticks attach firmly to your skin and begin to draw blood for their meal. This process is painless. Most people will not notice the tick bite.
Ticks can be fairly large, about the size of a pencil eraser. They can also be so small that they are very hard to see. Ticks can transmit bacteria that can cause disease. Some of these can be serious.
While most ticks do not carry bacteria that cause human diseases, some ticks do carry these bacteria. These bacteria can cause:
If a tick is attached to you, follow these steps to remove it:
- Use tweezers to grasp the tick close to its head or mouth. DO NOT use your bare fingers. If you don’t have tweezers and need to use your fingers, use a tissue or paper towel.
- Pull the tick straight out with a slow and steady motion. Avoid squeezing or crushing the tick. Be careful not to leave the head embedded in the skin.
- Clean the area well with soap and water. Also wash your hands thoroughly.
- Save the tick in a jar. Watch the person who was bitten carefully over the next week or two for symptoms of Lyme disease (such as rash or fever).
- If all parts of the tick can’t be removed, get medical help. Bring the tick in the jar to your doctor appointment.
- DO NOT try to burn the tick with a match or other hot object.
- DO NOT twist the tick when pulling it out.
- DO NOT try to kill, smother, or lubricate the tick with oil, alcohol, Vaseline, or similar material while the tick is still embedded in the skin.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your doctor if you have not been able to remove the entire tick. Also call in the days following a tick bite if you develop:
- A rash
- Flu-like symptoms, including fever and headache
- Joint pain or redness
- Swollen lymph nodes
Call 911 if you have any signs of:
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Severe headache
- Trouble breathing
To prevent tick bites:
- Wear long pants and long sleeves when walking through heavy brush, tall grass, and thickly wooded areas.
- Pull your socks over the outside of your pants to prevent ticks from crawling up your leg.
- Keep your shirt tucked into your pants.
- Wear light-colored clothes so that ticks can be spotted easily.
- Spray your clothes with insect repellant.
- Check your clothes and skin often while in the woods.
After returning home:
- Remove your clothes. Look closely at all your skin surfaces, including your scalp. Ticks can quickly climb up the length of your body.
- Some ticks are large and easy to locate. Other ticks can be quite small, so carefully look at all black or brown spots on the skin.
- If possible, ask someone to help you examine your body for ticks.
- An adult should examine children carefully.
- Lyme disease
- Deer and dog tick
- Tick imbedded in the skin
Bolgiano EB, Sexton J. Tickborne illnesses. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 126.
Cummins GA, Traub SJ. Tick-borne diseases. In: Auerbach PS, Cushing TA, Harris NS, eds. Auerbach’s Wilderness Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 42.
Diaz JH. Ticks, including tick paralysis. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 298.