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The best way to remove a tick

You’ve probably heard dozens of myths on the best way to remove a tick. From lit cigarettes to painting the tick’s body, you can ask any number of people how to remove ticks and get different answers from each of them. But what do the experts have to say about these myths? And what methods of removing a tick do they recommend?

How to remove a tick

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warn against false information, saying:

‟Avoid folklore remedies such as 'painting' the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat 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.”

You can also ignore any special tick removal devices or products. All you’ll need is a set of fine-tipped tweezers (not standard household tweezers which have a broader tip). The CDC explains removing ticks in four, simple steps:

  • Use 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 [sic] to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts [sic] 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, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

  • Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.

  • For more a downloadable fact sheet and pictures of how to do this go to the CDC website.

It’s actually advisable to save the tick that bit you and show it to your doctor for species identification. The steps for removing a tick from your dog or cat are the same as the ones provided for humans by the CDC, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Related: General Information on the Different Types of Ticks 

You should follow CDC guidelines on tick removal and using repellants, and you should talk to a veterinarian about tick prevention for your pets. For help with ticks around your home, contact us