How to remove a tick safely

DISCLAIMER: Caudwell LymeCo charity shares public domain  information, which it believes to be reliable, in good faith. It should never replace the advice of a qualified physician with a license to practise medicine. If you believe any information on this website to be incorrect, you are invited to contact the charity using the Contact page.

Instructions

1 . Do NOT DELAY removing the tick. Prompt removal reduces the risk of Lyme disease.

2 . Use a tick remover tool if possible. If not, use long fingernails.

3 . Lift straight upwards, pulling firmly and steadily. Do not squeeze the tick’s body.

4 . Disinfect the bite area and wash your hands with soap.

5 . If you don’t manage to get the feeding parts out, the bite could go septic but this is not Lyme disease.

6. Don’t put substances on the tick. Putting vaseline, nailvarnish or any other substance on a tick will make the tick MORE likely to vomit Lyme disease bacteria into your blood stream.

If you have no tick remover tool

  • Go to a DENTIST. Dentists have fine, pointed tweezers, or
  • Remove the tick with long fingernails. The bite area could go septic if the feeding parts are left in, but preventing inection with Lyme disease is more important.

Do not delay removing the tick while you search for a tick remover tool.

How do I remove a tick using tweezers?

  • You will need very narrow, pointed tweezers. Ordinary, square-ended tweezers are not suitable at all. 
  • Close the tips around the tick’s feeding parts, underneath the body of the tick.
  • Lift the tick away from the skin vertically and intact. Pull, don’t yank.
  • Clean the area with alcohol disinfectant.

 

You can see in this photo how the tweezers are slender enough to fit under the tick’s body, and grasp it around the feeding parts. This tick is not fully engorged:

 

Suitable forceps or tweezers are used by dentists and you can buy them from Ebay or Amazon. They are called “cotton swab tweezers”. Only buy a pair with tips which taper into sharp points.

Watch this video for a demonstration of correct tick removal using tweezers:

How do I remove a tick using a tick tool?

Tick removers, sold online or from a pharmacy or vet, have various forms. They are all designed to grasp the tick so you can pull it out vertically.

Whichever tick remover tool you buy, read the instruction for that particular tool carefully to make sure you know how to use it correctly.

  • Some tools have a slot which you slide under the tick, to then prise the tool away from the skin. This includes the Tom’O’Tick twister and the Lifesystems safecard. When you see the size of the notch and the thickness of the plastic on most of these tools, it is easy to realise why these cannot be used to remove tiny tick nymphs.
  • Some tools have a tiny lassoo which you loop around the tick, and then pull it out. This include the Trix Tick lassoo.
  • Some tools have claws which can be spread out and then closed together next to the skin, around the tick’s feeding parts. This includes the Care Plus Tick Out tool.

NEVER buy a tick remover which tells you to “twist” the tick out. It must only be pulled out vertically.

This picture shows a tick remover tool ready to pull the fully engorged adult tick upwards vertically:

BEWARE of misinformation about tick removal online!

DO NOT do any of the following: burn the tick, smother the tick in Vaseline, rub around it with a cotton bud, squeeze the tick, try to twist or rotate it, stick tape over it, try to pull it out with square ended tweezers, or generally hurt or harass it in any way while attached.

This will make it spew the bacteria from its gut into your blood stream.

Sources and Further Information

“Tick bite prevention and tick removal” British Medical Journal Clinical Review

“Evaluation of Five Popular Methods for Tick Removal” Glen R. Needham

“The application of petroleum jelly, fingernail polish, 70% isopropyl alcohol, or a hot kitchen match failed to induce detachment of adult American dog ticks”

“It is recommended that the tick be grasped as close to the skin as possible with curved forceps; if these are not available, use tweezers or protected fingers. Pull straight up with steady even pressure.”

“Effect of Tick Removal on Transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi and Ehrlichia phagocytophila by Ixodes scapularis Nymphs” Franka des Vignes et al 

“All gerbils with ticks removed >- 47 hrs post-attachment were found to be infected. After 16.7 hrs as well as after 28.9 hrs of tick feeding, approximately 50% of the gerbils had acquired a transmissible infection, thus Bb-transmission to a host may even occur in the early phases of I. ricinus feeding.”

“Evaluation of three commercial tick removal tools” Richard L. Stewart at al

“Nymphal ticks were consistently removed more successfully with commercial tools when compared with tweezers but with more difficulty than adults were removed.”

But contrast this with:

“Evaluation of methods of tick removal in human ixodidiasis” Oteo JA et al

“With regard to the type of removal method and the development of complications, only three patients who had ticks pulled with tweezers experienced complications compared with 23 patients who used other methods (p = 0.0058). With regard to specific complications (LB and/or spotted fever) and/or development of B. burgdorferi or R. conorii infection significant differences were also observed when tweezers were used for removal of ticks compared with other tick removal methods (p < 0.05). CONCLUSION: The removal of ticks with tweezers significantly protects from the development of complications and infection by tick-borne microorganisms.”

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