Ticks are small, brown parasites that live in wooded areas and fields. These organisms need blood from humans or animals to survive. Ticks attach to your skin and suck your blood. They prefer warm, moist areas, such as your scalp, armpits, or groin.
Unfortunately, ticks also tend to be carriers of diseases and can pass these diseases on to the people they bite. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some ticks carry the bacteria that lead to Lyme disease, which is a debilitating infection.
You don’t automatically contract Lyme disease if a tick bites you. However, if a tick does bite you, watch for symptoms for about 30 days. Make sure to see your doctor if you develop a red bull’s-eye-shaped rash or flu-like symptoms.
Always remove a tick as soon as you find it on your body, or the body of a child or pet, to prevent infections.
Ticks are parasitic in nature and they attach themselves to a host to drain their blood. Hosts include birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals, like you.
Not every tick carries disease. However, it’s important to remove a tick to stop it from potentially infecting you with a disease, or from causing any infection at the bite site. Removal also ensures that the tick doesn’t go on to breed in your home, causing an infestation.
Tick removal is a simple process that you can easily do at home without any special products or medications.
Before attempting to remove the tick, round up the necessary supplies. You’ll need:
- fine-tipped tweezers
- rubbing alcohol (or soap and water)
- a small jar or container
If the tick is in a hard-to-reach area, such as the top or back of your scalp, you may want to ask someone to help you remove it.
Begin by getting a good view of the tick. This may involve using a mirror and parting your hair.
Using your tweezers, grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible. Don’t use too much pressure. You don’t want to squish or crush the tick.
With the tick firmly in your grasp, pull it straight upward with even pressure and speed. If the tick breaks, make sure to go back into the bite area and remove the rest of the tick’s head.
After removing all of the tick, clean the bite area, tweezers, and your hands with rubbing alcohol. If you don’t have rubbing alcohol, use soap and warm water.
Place the tick in a jar and keep it. If you start experiencing symptoms, you may need to bring the tick to your doctor’s office.
There are very few risks associated with removing a tick. Be sure to remove the entire tick, especially its head. If you’re unable to remove the tick’s head, see a doctor. The longer the tick’s head remains in your body, the more likely it is that you will develop an infection.
The risks of infection and other problems from a tick bite increase if the removal isn’t correctly done. The CDC offers some warnings on tick removal. You should never:
- burn the tick with a hot object
- kill the tick while it’s still attached to you
- lubricate the tick with oil or other liquid
- twist the tick’s body when pulling it out
After you remove the tick, inspect the area surrounding the bite. If you notice a bull’s-eye rash —a slightly raised spot at the bite site with a clear area in the center— contact your doctor immediately. This could be a sign of infection.
The early signs of Lyme disease may appear within days of a tick bite. These include:
- body aches, including a stiff neck
- muscle pain
If you experience any of these symptoms after removing a tick, see your doctor as soon as possible. If you saved the tick after removing it, bring it with you to the doctor’s office. It can aid in diagnosing any possible disease caused by the tick bite.