How to Remove a Tick

Forget the folk remedies and pick up the tweezers.
Yellow Dog Tick

Yellow Dog Tick

Some ticks, like the yellow dog tick, can carry disease.

Photo by: Courtesy Public Health Image Library

Courtesy Public Health Image Library

Some ticks, like the yellow dog tick, can carry disease.

Often found in tall grass or lurking in trees, shrubs or heavy ground cover, ticks are a common pest during warmer months. Releasing an anesthetic as they bite, it is easy to miss these bloodsuckers until they have anchored themselves by embedding biting mouth-parts in the skin. Most tick bites are relatively harmless, but tick-borne diseases do occur.  Some are as small as poppy seeds and may be difficult to spot while others may be as large as a fingertip. Know what to look for and how to avoid these bloodthirsty pests. If you’ve been bitten, don’t panic. Learn how to remove ticks safely and what symptoms to watch for when infection is a concern.

Prevention

If ticks are common to your area, wear long sleeves and pants when spending time in grassy or wooded areas and use an appropriate insect repellent. Once home, change clothes, shower and inspect your body for ticks.

Diseases

A number of tick-borne diseases pose a risk to humans. Depending on geographic location, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Babesiosis among others. If bitten by a tick, be mindful of symptoms like fever, headaches, joint pain or difficulty breathing. These may be indicators of a serious infection and medical attention should be sought immediately.

What not to do

Smothering or burning ticks are not effective methods of treatment and may exacerbate problems as infected fluids are forced under the skin. Don’t use nail polish, matches or petroleum jelly. If a tick has attached to a person or pet, manual removal using a tick removal tool or tweezers is advised.

How to remove a tick

Tools designed specifically to remove ticks work well, but plain old tweezers will get the job done. Using fine-tipped tweezers held parallel to the skin, grab the tick at the mouth (where it is attached to the skin). The tick may be engorged with blood, depending on how long it has been attached. Take care not to squeeze the body, which may force infected fluid into the wound.

With a slow, steady motion, pull the tick straight upward to remove. Do not twist, jerk or leverage the tick, which can cause the mouth-parts to detach and remain buried in the bite site.   If the mouth-parts become detached, attempt to remove with tweezers, If not easily freed, leave in place and allow the body to expel naturally in the healing process.

Wash the bite wound thoroughly with warm water and soap or alcohol, apply an antibiotic ointment and dress. Monitor the site for a few weeks for swelling, red streaks or a bulls-eye shaped irritation. If these or any flu-like symptoms should develop, consult a physician.

Once tick has been removed, drown it in alcohol or seal in an airtight container for disposal.

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