Tick Removal

Written by Brian Krans | Published on July 19, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What Is Tick Removal?

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, inlcuding your scalp, armpits, or groin.

Unfortunately, ticks also tend to be carriers of diseases and can pass these diseases onto 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 (CDC, 2011).

You do not automatically contract Lyme disease if a tick bites you. However, if you are bitten, you should be monitored 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.

Why Is Tick Removal Necessary?

Ticks are parasitic in nature—meaning 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 is 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 does not go on to breed in your home, causing an infestation.

Tick removal is a simple process that can easily be done at home without the use of any special products or medications.

The Risks of a Tick Removal

There are very few risks associated with removing a tick. Be sure to remove the entire tick, especially its head.

The risks of infection and other problems from a tick bite increase if the removal isnot doneproperly. The CDC offers some warnings on tick removal. You should never(CDC, 2011):

  • burn the tick with a hot object
  • kill the tick while it is still attached to you
  • lubricate the tick with oil or other liquid
  • twist the tick’s body when pulling it out

How to Prepare for a Tick Removal

Before attempting to remove the tick, round up the necessary supplies:

  • 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.

How a Tick Removal Is Performed

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. Do not use too much pressure. You do not 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.

When all of the tick has been removed, clean the bite area, tweezers, and your hands with rubbing alcohol. If you do not have rubbing alcohol, you may 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.

After a Tick Removal

Once 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.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the early signs of Lyme disease may appear within days of a tick bite(NCBI, 2011). These include:

  • body aches, including a stiff neck
  • chills
  • fainting
  • fever
  • headache
  • light-headedness
  • muscle pain

If you experience any of these symptoms after removing a tick, see your doctor as soon as possible.

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