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How to Remove a Tick

If You Find a Tick on You, Don't Panic! And Definitely Don't Do This

We love Summer, but man, we hate ticks! You don't have to live in fear. You can still enjoy being outside, but just be sure to use insect repellent on your skin and your clothes. The CDC recommends ones that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Also avoid walking in tall grass, and wear long socks, pants, long-sleeves, and hats when you can. Check for ticks immediately after being outside. Strip your clothes, throw them in the dryer (the heat kills those suckers!), and take a shower to wash off the ticks you can't see (they hide, ahem . . . everywhere!)

OK, so you did all that, and you still got a tick. If it's embedded, the CDC says do these four things:

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
  2. 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.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  4. 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.

Another thing you should do is draw a circle with a ballpoint pen around the bite site so you remember where it is and can watch it for irritation or rash.

Close-up of a female deer tick that has been removed

The CDC also adds that you should avoid old "folklore remedies" such as applying nail polish, rubbing alcohol, gasoline, or petroleum jelly to the tick. And don't try burning the tick with a match. Doing any of these put you at greater risk of developing a tick-borne disease because it makes the tick regurgitate the infectious saliva into your body. So gross!

So now what? My children's pediatrician, Dr. Steve Hale, MD, says there's no need to save the tick to have it tested. He also says you don't need to start antibiotics immediately either. Unfortunately it's a waiting game at this point. If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks after removing the tick, see your doctor to get tested for Lyme's disease or other tick-borne illnesses.

There's another side to this coin though. Some experts think you should have the tick tested, because if it tests positive for Lyme or another illness, you can start treating it sooner rather than waiting for symptoms to appear. Talk to your doctor about what they recommend, and ultimately do what you feel is right. If you live in an area where tick illnesses are rampant, it makes sense to test to tick, just to be safe.

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