How to Safely Remove Ticks
There's a right way to remove a tick. (Hint: It doesn't involve any matches.)
It’s officially tick season, which means it’s time to tick-proof your home and check for any pests clinging to you after spending time outside. But what are you supposed to do if you actually find a tick?
In this article, we’ll go through the dos and don’ts of tick removal, including everything from effective tools to proper disposal of the pest.
Tools for Safe Tick Removal
While there are many tick removal tools on the market — we like this $5 one from Amazon — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assures that “a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers works very well.” Besides tweezers, you’ll need soap, water, rubbing alcohol and a piece of toilet paper or cotton ball.
Avoid using “home remedy” materials like nail polish, petroleum jelly or matches. According to Drs. Naline Lai and Julie Cardos of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: “These techniques aren’t very effective and they just allow the tick to stay on for a longer period of time. They can also cause the tick to become slippery and difficult to grasp.”
How to Remove a Tick
First, go to a well-lit area so you can see the tick clearly. Use rubbing alcohol and a piece of toilet paper or cotton ball to sanitize your tweezers.
Then, grab the tick with the tweezers as close to the skin as possible. Once you’ve got it firmly, Summit Health advises to “pull upward using a firm and even pressure.” Be sure not to move too quickly or twist the tweezers, which can break the tick — exactly what you don’t want.
If the tick’s head or mouth parts remain in the skin, try to remove them with the tweezers. But if you can’t, don’t root around in your skin. Lai and Cardos say “[j]ust like a tiny splinter, your skin will naturally expel [the bug parts] … [s]oaking the area in warm water can help that process along.”
Once you’ve successfully removed the tick, clean the bite area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. Then sanitize your tweezers with the rubbing alcohol and toilet paper or cotton ball again.
How to Dispose of a Tick
According to the CDC, you’ve got choices. The simplest way is flushing the tick down the toilet. You can also submerge it in alcohol, wrap it in tape, or place it in a sealed bag before setting it in the trash. Ideally, place the bagged tick in an outside trash bin to avoid further home infestations.
And never crush a tick with your fingers, which can lead to more potential infections.
When to Alert a Doctor
Monitor your tick bite over the next several weeks. If you develop a rash or fever, contact your doctor immediately. According to the Mayo Clinic, these may be symptoms of tick-borne diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Relapsing Fever or Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness.
Be sure to tell your doctor when the bite occurred and where you think you acquired the tick to help them determine the best course of action.
How to Avoid Tick Bites in the Future
And don’t forget to check your furry friends for ticks, too, since ticks can potentially pass along Lyme disease.