You’ve come home from an invigorating walk in the woods or high mountains. As you shed your clothes to shower, you notice you’ve picked up an unwanted traveler, a tick. You should always inspect yourself and your pets closely for ticks when you’ve been out walking in any grasses or natural setting, since ticks can carry serious illnesses. Among them are Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease, which can have significant consequences if left untreated.
But what do you do once you’ve found a tick attached to you? You absolutely have to remove a tick that’s attached, because you probably should have the tick tested by a lab (or your doctor’s office) to be certain it isn’t a disease-harboring pest. There’s plenty of misinformation on how to remove a tick, which may only make the problem worse. For instance, don’t try to burn off a tick with a lit match, and don’t simply pull the tick out with your fingers. Also don’t remove a tick in a clockwise or counterclockwise twist, since you may risk detaching its head from its body.
If the tick is very firmly imbedded in the skin, you may want to visit your doctor or nurse practitioner and ask him/her to remove it. But you can remove a tick at home too, especially if you noticed one attached within the first day or two of it having attached.
The best way to remove a tick is the following:
- First gather up some materials: blunt tweezers, rubbing alcohol, a sealable plastic bag, and some cotton balls.
- Try to determine where the head of the tick is. This may not always be possible.
- If you can determine where the head is, grasp the tick as close to the head as possible, in a gentle grasp with the tweezers, and as near to the skin as possible.
- Pull up gently, smoothly and firmly and hold the tick in place for about four to five seconds. Essentially, pull up only a centimeter or so away from the skin and let the tick do the work.
- Don’t jerk up, or pull the tick immediately out of the skin, since you might leave the tick head behind if you do.
- Usually, holding the tick gently, and not squishing it (which may end up releasing bacteria into the blood stream, will cause the tick to release from the skin.
- Place the tick on a cotton ball, and stick it in a sealed plastic bag.
- Wash the bite area with warm soapy water. Then apply rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, and wash the hands thoroughly.
- Contact your doctor’s office or your city’s Public Health Department to find out where to send the tick for testing.
If your tick won’t release, you may want to have a doctor remove a tick and send it for testing. Ticks burrow into skin and they can be pesky to remove. You don’t want to leave any of the tick behind, especially its head, and if you feel you haven’t removed the whole tick, pay a visit to your doctor. Remember that it takes a firm and gentle approach, and a little patience to remove a tick, and especially if you live in high-risk areas, you should always have the tick tested for disease so you can get treatment if needed.