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If I find a tick on myself or a friend, what is the best way of removing it?

I've heard some people say that singeing the tick with a match makes the tick detach and fall off. However I've also heard that the fire method makes the tick essentially vomit and is worse than just ripping the tick off.

What is the best method?

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Nice to see that most answers emphasize the evenly part. Ticks aren't screws, so pulling them out counterclockwise or clockwise as some people like to tell you, won't do any good. –  Lagerbaer Jan 25 '12 at 0:40
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Untick it? (Works for me...) –  Poldie Jul 15 '12 at 0:31

9 Answers 9

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Use tweezers, grip as near to the head as you can, and pull gently and evenly but firmly - it should come off cleanly. If it doesn't then be sure to remove the head rather than just leave it in there. Then clean the area with alcohol and be sure to keep an eye on it in case any rashes or other untoward symptoms appear. The likelihood of this depends on the area but it always pays to be aware.

I wouldn't recommend the commonly cited more "violent" approaches such as burning the tick or trying to twist it out. That will often do more harm than good and has a greater chance of leaving the head still embedded in the skin.

If you're worried about potential diseases then be sure to preserve the tick so it can be analysed later by a lab if necessary to determine any infections it may have been carrying.

EDIT: If you have one, a tick key may well be the best solution, though I've yet to try it myself (and have personally never had an issue with tweezers.)

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@downvoter - Could you explain the reason? –  berry120 Jan 26 '12 at 0:08
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This is a terrible answer! You should never squeeze the tick, whether you're using fingers, tweezers or anything else. The only safe way to remove a tick is with a tool such as the tick key mentioned in another answer, or with a loop of thread. –  Jonathan Sayce Jun 11 '12 at 14:49
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The only way tweezers have any grip is by squeezing, so you run the risk of pumping the contents of the tick's body into the animal it's attached to, the same as if you squeezed it with your fingers. This is the single most important thing to avoid, as it's how diseases are transferred. –  Jonathan Sayce Jun 11 '12 at 14:58
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@berry120's answer is actually the CDC recommended approach: cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html –  Emile Sep 9 '13 at 1:43
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This is also the UK's NHS reccomended approach nhs.uk/Conditions/Lyme-disease/Pages/Prevention.aspx. A fine pair of tweezers will out perform most tick keys as it allows you better grip and are more adjustable. –  Liam Jun 18 at 20:48

Until just a few years ago I would have said tweezers. I use a tick key these days because it removes without squeezing the tick.

tick key

I get between three and a dozen ticks a year (they like me), and I much prefer this to the tweezers. The big downside with tweezers is that you are compressing the tick's body and thus forcing liquid out of the tick and...

You need to remove the tick for sure though. Don't try to burn it, or smother it off, etc. Lyme Disease for instance, takes a while to transfer, so you don't want to just leave it on there under vaseline until it gives up. If you pull it within a few hours you are just about guaranteed to not get Lyme.

As noted below, this will not pull out seed (baby) ticks. They are super tiny, and you will have to use tweezers for those.

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On Amazon.com there is a harsh review of this product: "We have tried a number of times to remove adult deer ticks from people (ourselves) with no success. The TickKey just slides right over the tick. It will remove a tick that has fed on a dog. This was advertised as being able to remove deer ticks, in our experence(sic), IT DOES NOT WORK." There are other reviews which state that it does not work on small ticks. If you have to wait for the tick to swell up with blood before it works that's not good. What is your experience? What is the specific species of tick in your area? –  Mr.Wizard Jun 17 at 20:29
    
It is true that it will not work on the tiny baby ticks (we call them seed ticks where I live). I will update for that. It does work on larger ticks. If it is sliding over, it sounds like they are using it backwards (or upside down). –  Russell Steen Jun 20 at 12:05

Gently and very slowly pull the tick out.

  • Do not burn the tick.
  • Do not twist the tick.
  • Do not pour oil or alcohol on the tick.

It is a living creature and as soon as you stress it out, it will start spitting and vomiting into your body.

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If a tick has already attached to you, I'd reccommend seeking out some medical help, but since we're in the outdoors group, what are the chances of there being one nearby? :)

You should:

  • Pour a little bit of spirits on the tick. That should both disinfect the area and stun the bugger a bit.
  • Make a little loop of cotton, and try to pull out the tick, evenly.

You should not:

  • Squeeze the tick, as doing do could cause it to empty the contents of its stomach, thus releasing the Lyme disease.
  • Leave parts of it inside. Try to get them out at once.

The thing is, if you've got a tick, what you should be concerned about is getting the tick out, without it vomiting. Other than that, seek medical assistance as soon as possible, and keep the tick if possible. It may lessen the need for treatments.

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+1 for using a loop, but the medical attention part is overkill. It's really not necessary to see a doctor unless you are symptomatic for a tickborn disease. –  Russell Steen Jan 25 '12 at 21:33
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Wouldn't Tweezers (Berry's answer) end up squeezing it? –  Casebash Feb 2 '12 at 12:25
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They would. That's what the loop is for. –  Janis Peisenieks Feb 2 '12 at 13:05
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I'd disinfect AFTER removal, as doing it before risks it vomiting. –  Roddy May 8 '12 at 11:03

It's vital to get them off ASAP as the risk of infection from Lyme Disease increases after the first 24 hours, but the list of ways NOT to do this is probably more important ;-)

Don't burn it, squeeze it, twist it, or cover it in alcohol/wax/marmalade/whatever.

And -contrary to the accepted answer- if at all possible, DO NOT use tweezers: you need extreme care not to separate the body from the head, or to make the tick vomit it's supper back into you.

Instead I carry a pair of the O'TOM Tick Twisters in my first aid kit. Practically zero size and weight, and they have worked flawlessly every time, even on the tiniest ticks.

Good advice re. Lyme Disease and Tick Removal here:- http://www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk/about-ticks/tick-removal/

Note that contrary to the name, the tick isn't actually 'twisted' off.

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"It's vital to get them off ASAP" could you please provide a reasoning behind this? –  Vorac Jun 1 '12 at 13:47
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@Vorac - I believe it's to do with the Tick's feeding cycle. I can't find a definite reference, but I think the risk of disease xfer goes up once they start feeding, and this is typically around 24 hours after you get bitten. Of course, you likely won't know exactly when you got bitten, so soonest is best. –  Roddy Jun 1 '12 at 15:33

To remove a tick that has attached to your skin: Use a pair of fine tipped tweezers and pull up evenly, i.e. with steady pressure. Don't twist or jerk, as this may leave body parts in the skin. If this happens, use the tweezers to pull them out.

Also, don't forget to use rubbing/isopropyl alcohol to sterilize the tick site, as you want to make sure there are no harmful germs, etc. left behind

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I pull them off gently, and if their head detaches in my skin (rarely happens), I'll dig it out with a needle or tweezers. Then add neosporin, and occasionally look for oddly-shaped rashes.

If you spray your socks with deet, it will help keep them off.

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Unlike most other answers, I prefer a chemical approach to tick removal.

When hiking in an area that I have even a mild suspicion that ticks might be present,
I carry a small glass vial filled with Acetone.

When you notice a tick on yourself or a peer, do the following:

  1. Unseal the acetone vial

  2. Place the mouth of the vial over the tick:

    • Immersing the tick in acetone

    • Creating a container to capture the tick in

  3. Wait for the tick to de-burrow from your skin

    • This normally take 1-5 seconds
  4. Invert the vial containing the tick suspended in the acetone.

  5. Seal the acetone vial.

  6. Wait for the acetone to erode the tick's exoskeleton, causing it to die.

  7. Note that acetone is a (harsh) disinfectant, that has already been applied to the wound.

Bonus points, acetone can be used as a fire starter!

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I'm not quite sure about your solution. From some 25 years ago I know it was usual to use benzine the same way but it was deprecated then. The reason was that there's the possibility that while it is poisoned or starved by the benzine (or the acetone) the tick will spit out what it has in it's stomach directly into the wound, including borreliosis viruses and the like. –  Benedikt Bauer Jun 17 at 19:47
    
@BenediktBauer If you have a tick on you, you already have a decent risk of exposure to whatever pathogens it is carrying. This technique has worked for me several times in the past and I find it much more reliable then using tweezers. The technique is also accessible to the elderly or children who might not have the requisite dexterity or vision to use tweezers. Since time is on the essence when removing ticks, I feel a fool-proof, low-skill method is the best approach. Unfortunately I don't think tick removal techniques have any serious scientific research regarding risk reducing... –  recursion.ninja Jun 17 at 19:53
    
@awashburn The chance of getting infected by Lyme-disease increases by time. The virus sits in the colon of the tick and it's more likely that a vomiting tick will give its host the virus compared to a tick which is just sucking blood. –  EverythingRightPlace Jun 22 at 22:18

I've never had to do this, but the one I was taught in Scouting was:

If you have some vaseline, or other petroleum-based jelly, then put a dollop over the tick. It will not be able to breath, and will detach itself - then you can safely wipe it off.

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Vaseline may take a day or two to kill the tick. It's better to remove it as soon as possible to reduce the likelihood of disease. –  xpda Jan 25 '12 at 2:19
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I can say that I've tried it and when I did, it didn't work. –  Russell Steen Jan 25 '12 at 21:31

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