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How is a tick removed from the skin?

Emergency Medicine, WebMD Medical Expert
Medical Editor/Author, MedicineNet

The following is a step-by-step method that is suggested for safe and effective removal of all types of ticks.

  1. Use a small pair of curved forceps or tweezers. Wear some sort of hand protection such as gloves so you don't spread pathogens from the tick to your hands.
  2. Using the tweezers, carefully flip the tick over onto its back. Grasp the tick firmly with the tweezers as close to the skin as possible. Apply gentle pulling until the tick comes free. Twisting or turning the tick does not make removal easier because the mouthparts are barbed; in fact, such actions may break off the head and mouthparts, thereby increasing the chances for infection.
  3. Once the tick is removed, don't crush the tick because it may release pathogens. Rinse it down a sink or flush it down a toilet. Consider keeping it in a tightly closed jar or taped to a piece of paper. Show the tick to the doctor if the person bitten becomes ill after the tick bite.
  4. The area of the bite should leave a small crater or indentation where the head and mouthparts were embedded. If portions of the head or mouthparts remain, they should be removed by a doctor.
  5. After removing the tick, thoroughly cleanse the bite area with soap and water or a mild disinfectant. Observe the area for several days for development of a reaction to the bite, such as a rash or signs of infection. Apply antibiotic cream to the area. Application of an antibiotic to the area may help prevent a local infection but usually does not affect the chance of developing diseases transmitted by the tick.
  6. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after handling any tick or instruments that touched a tick. Clean and disinfect any instruments that were used.

Other ways to remove ticks, such as using a hot match head or painting the tick with nail polish, gasoline, or other materials, are not advised. Such treatments can cause the tick to release more fluids back into the bite and increases the chance to transmit disease before the tick releases itself from the skin.