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How to Remove an Attached Tick

By Chris Williams on March 27, 2011.

Q. Now that the weather is getting warmer, I’m worrying in advance about my kids picking up ticks outside. Last summer, we removed several ticks but I’ve never been sure of the best way to do it. It seems like I don’t always get the whole thing out. Should I smother it first with petroleum jelly?

A. No smothering. You’ve no doubt heard people say to dab the tick with lighter fluid, nail polish, alcohol, or Vaseline to get it to let go. Or, touch it with a hot needle or a glowing cigarette. Don’t do any of those things! They don’t work; ticks will not easily let go. In fact, these tactics are likely to stress the tick causing it to regurgitate into the bite, increasing the risk of tick-transmitted diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Always remove an attached tick as soon as it’s discovered. Don’t delay. A feeding tick can transmit Lyme disease in just a few hours. Here is the proper way to remove an attached tick:
tick
• Don’t touch the tick with bare hands. Using fine-tipped tweezers, firmly grab the tick’s mouthparts as close to the skin as possible. You may have to dig into the skin a bit. Don’t grab farther back on the tick’s body, you could squeeze disease organisms into the bite.

• Remove the tick with a slow, steady pull straight back. Don’t twist the tick which could tear it, leaving parts in the skin. Finally, remove any mouthparts left in the skin.

• Apply an antiseptic to the bite, and wash your hands and the tweezers.

• The tick will usually still be alive when removed so be careful how you dispose of it. Don’t try to crush the removed tick. They’re tough and you may release disease organisms inside the tick’s body.

• It’s a good idea to save the tick in alcohol for identification in case the person comes down with disease symptoms. Make a note (in pencil) of the date that the tick was removed and drop the slip of paper into the bottle. If rash or illness develops later, see a physician and bring along the bottle with the tick and information.

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