Tricks For Ticks: Dental Floss / Drinking Straw / Plastic Card

The nature of this arachnid is to bury its head deep into a person’s flesh and feast until quite engorged with blood. Although it will likely fall off once it’s had its fill (after a few days), quick removal is important to prevent infection.

Here’s a step-by-step list of instructions to guide through the process plus a number of quick tips listed at the bottom of the page.

A few different methods listed here, each of them work well so if there’s no access to a pair of tweezers, no worries! These are suitable techniques for both humans and pets.

Important: Whatever procedure is chosen, don’t apply too much pressure to the body or squeeze too hard since this causes more bacteria or saliva to be released into the host (or worse by bursting the insect). The bacteria is the culprit of medical complications.

How To Remove A Tick

  • Protect hands by wearing latex gloves (a tissue will do in a pinch).
  • Use a pair of clean, fine point tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  • Gently pull out the critter (in a slow, straight up motion, not squeezing, twisting or yanking).

No tweezers available?

  • Try tying strong thread around it (close to the head) and gently tug until it comes out.

Here is an effective trick using a strand of dental floss (Source: CanLyme):

  • Take a length of dental floss and tie it in a knot around a plastic drinking straw.
  • Place the straw at a 45-degree angle over the tick.
  • Slide knot down the straw so it is positioned underneath the bug’s belly.
  • Slowly tighten floss to close snugly around the mouthparts.
  • Take away the straw and pull the thread in an even, upward motion.

Pulling them out by hand is also possible (protect skin by wearing gloves or use a tissue). If too small to grab hold of, try brushing and flicking using the edge of a heavy plastic card (like a credit card):

  • Push the edge of the card into the host’s flesh near the head then sweep out with pressure focused on the area underneath the insect. Some believe this is the safest method because there’s no danger of squeezing so hard that the little fellow releases bacteria (which transmits disease).

Once It’s Out

Wash the bite area (soap and water) then dab tea tree oil or isopropyl alcohol over bite (or any topical antiseptic). Wash hands well too.

Did a piece break off inside the body? Try picking at any mouth parts left behind with a sterilized needle, parts will be near the surface of the flesh so there’s no need to dig deep. Be aware that this can cause infection if the needle isn’t sterilized properly.

Still moving? It will still be alive if procedure was done properly (not squished so hard it burst). Kill it by smashing between two hard surfaces.

When to see a doctor:

  • The head or mouth parts are still embedded in the flesh.
  • Bite victim develops a fever, nausea, sore muscles, stiffness, migraines, headaches, a bumpy, red rash appears or a red ring or “bulls eye” appears around the bite…these can indicate illness. Symptoms may be delayed, watch closely over the next two weeks.
  • When Lyme disease has been confirmed in the locale, contact a doctor.

To get it tested: Save the insect (actually arachnid) in a sealed glass jar and refrigerate until testing (as soon as possible for best results). Another option is to seal it in a zipped freezer bag and freeze. Note the date, time and location it was picked up.

A Few Tips & More Information

  • Wear long sleeves and light colored clothing when camping or hiking outdoors, they are easier to spot and brush off before they attach/embed themselves. Apply insect repellent.
  • While they’re happy to munch away on humans, they also feast on deer, dogs, cats, mice, (pretty much any mammal), birds and even some reptiles.
  • Good To Know: Chances of contracting Lyme disease is greatly reduced if the bug is removed within 24 hours and there was no chance to feast heavily yet.
  • Some diseases they carry: Lyme, Rocky Mounted Spotted Fever and Colorado fever.
  • Careful: If dislodging one from someone else’s body and the critter “pops” while pulling at it, you can get infected if gloves weren’t worn during the procedure (especially if you have broken skin under fingernails, scratches, etc.).
  • Regularly check pets by brushing fur in the opposite direction of growth to view skin. The “bump” of one (when swollen) is felt as you brush with fingers.

Advice on Home Remedies: Some advise smothering the critter with Vaseline, liquid soap, nail polish, applying heat (a lit match, etc.), so it backs away on its own. These may or may not work but they can cause the bug to get stressed or aggravated and release more bacteria and saliva…quick removal using tweezers (or even glove covered hands) is the best bet.

Note: This is not intended as professional medical advice but simply a list of information I’ve organized from my collection.

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Comments

    • tammy
    Reply

    what happens if you are trying to remove a tick and you end up leaving the head? How do you remove the head? Is the head still alive after you remove the body?Or is it still alive and will it keep feeding?

    • Kez
    Reply

    Hi, I found what I thought was a burrowed in tick on my dogs head, because i couldn’t see any head. I tried to soak it with dishwashing liquid and I thought I noticed, even before I tried to grab it, that it started to turn red. Does that happen to an aggravated tick? Or maybe it is a hanging mole and I did affect it by just the rubbing of dishwashing liquid on it. Can someone help me out here. I cant really afford a vet, especially if it is just a mole. Do ticks react by sucking more blood when they are upset by soap?

    • Nina
    Reply

    i went to the doctors to et a tick removed as we were very close to it when i found it and the used a sort of modified tweezers to remove it. he said that you should twist it and not to pull it out or use tweezers as it can upset the tick and could cause it to through up and you could end up with lime disease.

    • Mark Crawley
    Reply

    Rubbing the body of a tick in 1 direction as if to make it dizzy works a treat read it on Internet and gave it a go before I was about to take dog to vet it took less than 30secs and the tick for whatever reason backs out as I said just move the ticks body in a circular motion say clockwise for upto a minute .. Trust me it works!!

    • Chantal
    Reply

    My aunt had a special little device that was essentially a pair of modified tweezers, with the ends angled like . The instructions said to grip the tick as close to the skin as possible and twist counter-clockwise, because a tick burrows its mouth in clockwise. She used it all the time on her farm, and it worked great.

    • Carolyn
    Reply

    It is also a good idea to place that tick in a ziplock bag, write the person’s name and the date removed on it. Place the bag in the freezer (do not mash it as freezing it will not only kill it, but will preserve it. Now, if this person gets sick in the next couple of weeks, you have the tick to help verify or rule out such diseases as lyme’s disease, tick fever, rocky moutain fever.

    • Skaila
    Reply

    I discovered a tick on my puppy a few minutes ago and panicked before trying to remove it! It would not budge, and my pup wouldn’t stop squirming! I hope these tricks work, before I lose my mind!

    • Aileen
    Reply

    Tea Tree oil will dry a tick up and it will just fall out. Works well on dogs too. Just dab some on a cotton ball and place on the tick.

      • Skaila
      Reply

      I am literally about to go try this! Wish me luck!

      • Cole
      Reply

      Some liquid soap (non foaming) on a cotton ball works wonders too. It smothers the tick and will back out of hte sick on its own. Then we kill it.

        • Torinda
        Reply

        We used dish soap also. The tick backed out in just a minute and we were able to remove easily with tweezers.

      • River
      Reply

      I’m worried that the dish soap and tea tree oil will cause the tick to throw up, release saliva, etc. causing you to get any diseases the tick has. Maybe you should ask your doctor before doing this?

        • Lights
        Reply

        This is true, Using tea tree oil, Petroleum jelly (Vaseline), Dish soap, burning it with a match, nail polish etc can make the tick throw up in your skin and even more bacteria goes in, So there’s more chances of getting Lyme Disease,Rocky

        • Lights
        Reply

        This is true, Using tea tree oil, Petroleum jelly (Vaseline), Dish soap, burning it with a match, nail polish etc can make the tick throw up in your skin and even more bacteria goes in, So there’s more chances of getting Lyme Disease,Rocky mountain disease and other disease’s found in animals. – Nurse

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