How to Safely Remove a Tick and Other Tick Safety Tips

how to safely remove a tick
*Please note that I am not a doctor. I’m just summarizing lots of information here for you. Seek medical attention for any concern.*

Do you know how to safely remove a tick?

Light a match, blow it out, and then put the end of the match on the tick?

Wrong!

Put petroleum jelly on the tick, let it suffocate, then it will fall off?

Also wrong.

I will walk you through step by step on how to safely remove a tick, and give you some tips to prevent a tick bite in the first place.

Check Hair and Body

First, when camping or adventuring, before you go to bed, you want to check all over your body, your kids’ bodies, and your dogs’ bodies for ticks. I specifically call out checking your hair, because it is easier for ticks to hide themselves in your hair. However, don’t forget to check your armpits, belly button (I know gross), and between your toes. When ticks bite, they release a pain killer so the host animal doesn’t feel them latch on. So it’s extra important to check for ticks, since you can’t rely on just feeling where it might be.

How to Safely Remove a Tick

Ok so you spot a tick, now what? Here are the steps to safely remove a tick according to WebMd:

  1. Take an alcohol swab to clean the area.  
  2. Then use pointy tweezers to get as much of the tick as possible and pull it out.
  3. Use another alcohol swab to re-clean the area.
  4. Dispose of the tick or send it in for testing (more on this below).

That’s it!

A few other things to mention:

  • The head might get stuck. If the head is stuck, try getting it out with a sterile needle or call your doctor.
  • Do not squish the tick, because you could get infected with their diseases by doing this.
  • To dispose of the tick, make sure it is dead by drowning it in alcohol or soapy water, put it in between a piece of tape or place it in a plastic bag.

The most important thing is to get the tick off your body as soon as possible. This why you don’t want to try some popular methods like suffocating it with petroleum jelly or nail polish.

Also, their secretions that cause you to get sick are stored in the back of their bodies. Using the well-known, but misinformed, matchstick method where you light a match, blow it out, then burn the tick with it, could cause the tick to release their secretions into your skin even if they haven’t already.

Tick Borne Diseases and Symptoms

Most ticks will not cause you any harm. But if you want to be sure, you can get your tick tested for any possible diseases. If it does come back positive for carrying a disease then it would be wise to see a doctor or watch for symptoms. However, many people will get sick before testing comes back. If that happens, please see a doctor right when symptoms appear.

There are nearly 900 species of ticks carrying a whole bunch of diseases, however, only a few species are known to carry diseases in humans. Check out this map from the CDC to see the ticks that might be found in your area and the diseases they carry.

In addition to lots of tick species, there are over a dozen tick diseases that can be contracted by humans. The most known and problematic diseases are Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado tick fever, tularemia, ehrlichiosis , and tick-induced paralysis.  Look for these symptoms, and seek medical attention if any symptoms arise:

  • Fever/chills
  • Aches and pains
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Neck stiffness
  • Rash at the site of the bite
  • Whole body rash
  • Skin ulcer
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Paralysis (typically subsides within 24 hours of the tick being off the body.)

Tick Prevention

Thankfully, there are ways to prevent tick bites. First, it’s important to have some education around ticks. They can bite you year round, but they are most common in the summer months and most common in humid areas. However Lyme disease has been found in every state in the US. So even us Coloradans have to be aware of them.

Ticks wait on bushes and wooded areas for a host to attach itself to. They only crawl and do not fly or jump. So typically they are crawling on the ground and then up your leg. Come prepared for your hike, camping trip, or anything outside where you might encounter one. To prevent a tick bite you can:

  • Wear protective clothing like pants, long sleeves, and high socks to cover your body.
  • Spray yourself with DEET bug spray. This only repels ticks from your skin.
  •  Treat your clothing with permethrin. This actually repels and kills ticks when they come in contact with it.
  • DEET and permethrin are considered safe for humans to use. However, here is a list of natural tick prevention options including essential oils, eating lots of garlic, and apple cider vinegar to name a few.

Ticks are gross and can be dangerous. I hope you don’t encounter one, but if you do, I hope this helps prepare you for the situation.

Do you have any other tick safety or prevention tips?

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