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.