Ticks are blood-feeding parasites that attach firmly to the skin’s surface. They’re usually found in shrubs and tall grassy areas and are most active in the United States during warmer months from April to September. However, tick exposure can occur year-round.
The biggest concern with tick bites is the exposure and transmission of infectious disease, including risk of Lyme disease.
If you find an embedded tick, here’s how to safely remove a tick and dispose of it.
Safe tick removal process
The longer a tick is attached, the more likely diseases or other problems will occur. Therefore, the whole tick should be removed as soon as possible.
To best way to remove an attached tick:
Grasp the tick close to the skin with fine-point tweezers (various tick removal tools are also available).
Pull straight up with a steady, slow motion. Note that twisting or jerking can cause the tick’s mouth to break off.
Clean the bite site with soap and water or an antiseptic wipe.
Wash your hands thoroughly when finished removing the tick.
If parts of the tick remain in the skin, or if the person develops a fever, rash, or aches within a few weeks of a tick bite, seek medical attention with a healthcare provider.
The DON’Ts of tick removal
There are many common tick removal misconceptions and folklore remedies to, in theory, make the tick’s body detach from the skin. However, the following actions have no proven value and may cause additional harm:
“Painting” the tick with fingernail polish
Coating it with petroleum jelly
Using a glowing hot match or alcohol
You should also avoid crushing the removed tick with your fingers. Instead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends disposing of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed container (e.g. plastic bag), wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
For more first aid tips, take a CPR, AED and First Aid class with your local HSI Training Center.