How to Remove a Tick
Prompt tick removal is important in order to lower your risk of tickborne disease transmission.
- Use a fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
Avoid folk remedies like petroleum jelly, nail polish remover or burning matches to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible - not waiting for it to detach.
Watch for symptoms for 30 days
Contact your health care provider if you get any of the following symptoms 30 days after a tickbite:
- Muscle pain
- Joint swelling and pain
Treatment for tickborne diseases should be based on symptoms, history of exposure to ticks, and laboratory test results. Most tickborne diseases can be treated with antibiotics.
How long does a tick need to be attached before it can spread infection?
Depending on the type of tick and germ, a tick needs to be attached to you for different amounts of time (minutes to days) to infect you with that germ.
Your risk for Lyme disease is very low if a tick has been attached for fewer than 36 hours. Check for ticks daily and remove them as soon as possible. Places to check for ticks include:
- In and around the hair
- In and around the ears
- Under the arms
- Inside the belly button
- Around the waist
- Between the legs
- Back of the knees
Can I get sick from a tick that is crawling on me but has not yet attached?
Ticks must bite you to spread their germs. Once they attach to you, they will feed on your blood and can spread germs. A tick that is crawling on you but not attached or full of blood could not have spread germs. However, if you have found a tick crawling on you, it's a sign there may be others: do a careful tick check.
Should I get my tick tested?
People who have removed a tick sometimes wonder if they should have it tested for evidence of infection. Although some commercial groups offer testing, in general this is not recommended because:
- Laboratories that conduct tick testing are not required to have the high standards of quality control used by clinical diagnostic laboratories. Results of tick testing should not be used for treatment decisions.
- Positive results showing that a tick contains a disease-causing organism do not necessarily mean that you have been infected.
- Negative results can lead to false assurance. You may have been unknowingly bitten by a different tick that was infected.
- If you have been infected, you will probably develop symptoms before results of the tick test are available. If you do become ill, you should not wait for tick testing results before beginning appropriate treatment.