The Right Way to Remove an Attached Tick
By Chris Williams on July 3, 2015.
My kids are always getting into ticks and I have to remove them. I’ve always scraped them off with a credit card but I’m not sure if that’s the right way. What is the standard procedure for removing a tick? B. R., Stratham, NH
Just remember two things: tweezers and a slow steady pull. The main goal when removing a tick is to get the tick’s mouthparts out of the skin. If you rush the removal or yank at the tick (or use a credit card), you risk breaking off the head and leaving the mouthparts in the skin which can then continue to release disease toxins, or which can result in an infection.
Don’t try to burn the tick, or smother it with Vaseline, or cover it with nail polish. You don’t really want to kill it while it is still embedded in the skin and anything that traumatizes it can cause it to release more toxin into the bite. Don’t crush it with your fingernails either for the same reason.
Don’t Rush the Tick Removal Process
Use tweezers with a fine point. Dip them first in rubbing alcohol, then grab the tick with the tweezers as close to its head and the skin as you can. Gently but firmly, and slowly, pull to remove the tick. If you’re doing it right, it could even take a couple of minutes to get the tick to release its mouthparts. If the mouthparts do break off in the skin (which might be hard to see without magnification), try to remove them. After you remove the tick, apply an antiseptic to the bite area and wash your hands and the tweezers.
It’s always a good idea to save the tick in case the individual gets sick later. Knowing the tick can help the experts with disease diagnosis. Put the tick in a small bottle of rubbing alcohol with the date it was removed on a label (use pencil).
But Start the Process Right Away!
Don’t delay in removing an attached tick. The longer the tick is attached, the greater the chances that it will transmit a disease such as Lyme. After 24 hours, the chance of Lyme disease transmission from an attached blacklegged tick goes up significantly, and is even higher after 48 hours. This is why it’s important to conduct tick checks of your body (or your kids’ bodies) right away after you have been in tick territory.
Photo credit: wackybadger / Foter / CC BY-SA