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How do I Remove a Tick?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Jan 26, 2024
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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:

  1. First gather up some materials: blunt tweezers, rubbing alcohol, a sealable plastic bag, and some cotton balls.
  2. Try to determine where the head of the tick is. This may not always be possible.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Don’t jerk up, or pull the tick immediately out of the skin, since you might leave the tick head behind if you do.
  6. 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.
  7. Place the tick on a cotton ball, and stick it in a sealed plastic bag.
  8. Wash the bite area with warm soapy water. Then apply rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, and wash the hands thoroughly.
  9. 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.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By blackDagger — On May 14, 2011

Did you know that ticks can get really quite large if they are left to feed for very long at the time? I don’t think that they will actually release on their own, but their bodies just keep getting bigger and bigger.

We actually had one to grow to the size of a quarter on a dog before. Now, we didn’t just sit around and watch the poor guy grow a quarter-sized tick. He ran off, and when he come back a week later from romping through the woods, he brought the thing with him.

We weren't exactly sure how remove ticks from dogs, but we managed. We were careful to get the huge thing off of him along with the head, but blood went everywhere when we did. We burned the nasty thing after we got him off.

By tlcJPC — On May 11, 2011

For the manly men of the world out there, I may have some good advice for you. It may also be good for girls who carry toolboxes.

My husband always has a toolbox with him, but naturally, being the macho guy that he is, he doesn’t carry tweezers and such.

So when he’s out hunting or fishing, and notices that he’s picked up a tick, he goes to the toolbox for a set of needle nose pliers. And this is the tool with which he gets rid of the varmint.

It may not be the best way, but it usually works. He’s never had a head left embedded before, and he’s avoided getting any type of sickness from the pests – that may because he gets them off of his body so quickly.

By John57 — On May 11, 2011

Sending a tick in for inspection is a very good idea. I have never done this, but can see the benefit of it. The next time I have to remove a tick from my dogs or myself, I think I will do this.

The satisfaction knowing that it was not carrying a serious disease would be worth the small amount of effort it takes to send it in.

I know that having a tick attached to you is harmless in many cases, but I also know of people who have contacted Lyme Disease from a tick bite. Lyme Disease can be a hard thing to diagnose, so the sooner you knew something, the sooner you could begin treatment.

By honeybees — On May 11, 2011

This is a very helpful article because whenever I see a tick, my first reaction is just to pull it off and get it out of there. This does not sound like the best thing to do! I always wondered how to remove the head of a tick if it was left when you pulled the rest of the body off.

They are just such nasty things to have, especially if they have been there for awhile and have a sac filled with blood - very gross.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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