How to Remove a Tick

Blacklegged "Deer" Tick

Finding a tick on your body or pet is never a pleasant surprise, and removing a tick can seem stressful. It needn’t be. Just follow the six steps below to remove a tick safely.

Remember to remain calm when removing a tick and to remove the tick as soon as you can. Ticks are aggressive, and they  can cause severe illnesses, including Lyme disease.

Safely removing the tick as soon as possible may reduce you or your pet’s chances of infection.

How to Remove a Tick: 6 Easy Steps

  1. Grip the tick: Grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible with sanitized fine-tipped tweezers. Do not grab the tick around its engorged belly. Doing so will push infected fluid into your body.
  2. Pull upward: After grasping the tick, pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick. Twisting or jerking movements may cause the mouth-parts to break from the tick’s body and remain in the skin.
  3. Didn’t get it all? Don’t worry: If the mouth-parts do stay in the skin, then leave them alone. The remaining parts will likely come out on their own as the skin heals.
  4. Clean the bite area: After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water. Don’t touch the tick with your bare hands.
  5. How to save the tick for testing: If you wish to preserve the tick for disease testing, place it in a zipped plastic bag with a moist cotton ball and bring it to your local health department or private lab.
  6. Get rid of the tick: To dispose of the tick, put it in alcohol, wrap it tightly in tape, or flush it down the toilet. Don’t crush the tick with your bare fingers.

Don’t remove ticks with debunked remedies such as nail polish, petroleum jelly, heat, gasoline, or rubbing alcohol. Don’t smother or burn a tick as that could cause the tick to release fluid into your body, increasing your chance of infection.

How to Avoid Ticks

  1. Your skin: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
  2. Your clothing: Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. The EPA has a repellent search tool to help you find a repellent that best fits your needs.
  3. Your pets: Treat your domestic animals for ticks as recommended by the veterinarian.
  4. Wash up: Shower after being outdoors.
  5. Go long (pants and sleeves): Wear long pants and sleeves when outdoors.
  6. Tuck it: Tuck pants into socks when outdoors.
  7. Go light (color clothing): Wear light-colored clothing outdoors to make ticks easy to spot.
  8. Inspect yourself: Check your body daily for ticks, including inside the belly button, between the legs, behind the ears, and on the scalp.

When to Call a Doctor

If you develop a rash, fever, headache, joint pain, or flu-like symptoms within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor immediately. Tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you may have come in contact with the tick. If you do not seek medical attention after symptoms appear, the infection may become life-threatening.

SEE RELATED: How to Control Ticks in Denver

Main Image Credit: Fairfax County, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CC BY-ND 2.0

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell is a freelance writer and actor in New York City. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia and enjoys a warm cup of French press coffee.