Ticks (Tick Bites)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

Quick GuideLyme Disease Symptoms, Rash, Treatments

Lyme Disease Symptoms, Rash, Treatments

What is the best method of tick removal?

The following is a step-by-step method that is suggested for safe and effective removal of all types of ticks.

  1. Wear hand protection such as gloves so you don't spread pathogens from the tick to your hands; use forceps or tweezers to grab the tick at skin level.
  2. Grasp the tick firmly with the tweezers as close to the skin as possible without crushing the tick. Apply gentle pulling motion upward until the tick comes free. Twisting or turning the tick does not make removal easier because the mouthparts are barbed; in fact, such actions may break off the head and mouthparts, thereby increasing the chances for infection. The second web citation illustrates the proper removal of a tick.
  3. Once the tick is removed, don't crush the tick because it may release pathogens. Consider keeping it in a tightly closed jar or taped to a piece of paper. Show the tick to the doctor if the person bitten becomes ill after the tick bite. Flush any removed ticks not kept for identification down the toilet or sink.
  4. The area of the bite should leave a small crater or indentation where the head and mouthparts were embedded. If portions of the head or mouthparts remain, they may be removed by a doctor.
  5. Thoroughly cleanse the bite area with soap and water or a mild disinfectant. Observe the area for several days for development of a reaction to the bite (rash or signs of infection). Apply antibiotic cream to the area as a precaution. Application of an antibiotic to the area may help prevent a local infection but usually does not affect the chance of developing diseases transmitted by the tick.
  6. Wash hands thoroughly after handling any tick or instruments that touched a tick. Clean and disinfect any instruments that were used.

To remove the tick without tweezers, there have been several suggestions that may or may not work. The following are two examples that individuals claim work well and cause the tick to release itself from the skin with all of its mouthparts intact:

  • Find the tick on the skin, and with your finger (preferably a gloved finger), rotate the body of the tick clockwise or counterclockwise for about a minute or so. This irritates the tick enough to cause it to let go of the skin and then the tick can be removed by simply touching the tick to scotch tape.
  • Put liquid soap on a cotton ball and cover the tick with the soaked cotton ball for about 15 to 20 seconds; the tick will supposedly release itself from the skin and get caught up in the cotton ball. You can dispose of the tick by placing it and the cotton ball in a sealable plastic bag.

These methods are mentioned because sometimes tweezers are not available; nonetheless, if these methods remove the tick along with its intact mouthparts, individuals should thoroughly wash their hands and disinfect any areas with which the tick may have come in contact.

Other ways to remove ticks, such as using a hot match head or painting the tick with nail polish, gasoline, or other materials, are not advised. Such treatments can cause the tick to release more fluids back into the bite and increases the chance to transmit disease before the tick releases itself from the skin.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/19/2016

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  • Ticks - Bite Symptoms

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