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The right and wrong way to remove a tick

This time of year, it's essential to guard against ticks when you're enjoying a walk or hike in an area with grasses and shrubs. Ticks can transmit serious diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease, and Tularemia

Close up of a tick on a leaf.In those cases where you discover that a tick has hitched a ride on your body (or your pet) and gotten comfortable, here are some DOs and DON'Ts when it comes to removing the tick:

DON'T:

  • Use your bare hands to remove the tick. 
  • Yank out the tick by its abdomen. 
  • Twist or jerk the tick as you're trying to remove it. This can cause its mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. 
  • Crush a tick with your fingers.
  • Apply nail polish or petroleum jelly to the tick. (It's believed by some that 'suffocating' the tick in this manner is effective. It's not.)
  • Use heat to burn the tick's body. This may actually release the contents of its abdomen into the host, which can cause infection or spread disease.
  • Freeze the tick. Just as above, this can cause the abdomen contents to release into the host.

DO:

  • Use a pair of fine-point tweezers.
  • Grab the tick as close to its head/mouth as possible -- as close to your skin as you can.
  • Pull the tick out slowly, with light pressure.
  • Put the tick into a small clear plastic bag or jar and freeze it, in case a medical professional needs to identify it.
  • Thoroughly clean the tick bite area with rubbing alcohol.
  • Wash your hands with warm, soapy water after handling the tick.

 

Here's a visual depiction of the tick removal process from the TickEncounter Resource Center: