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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Tick Bites - Home Treatment

Most ticks don't carry diseases, and most tick bites don't cause serious health problems. The sooner ticks are removed, the less likely they are to spread disease.

Some ticks are so small that it is hard to see them. This makes it hard to tell whether you have removed the tick's head. If you do not see any obvious parts of the tick's head in the bite site, assume you have removed the entire tick, but watch for signs of a skin infection.

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to remove a tick. If you don't have tweezers, put on gloves or cover your hands with tissue paper, then use your fingers. Do not handle the tick with bare hands.
    • Grab the tick as close to its mouth (the part that is stuck in your skin) as you can.
    • The body of the tick will be above your skin. Do not grab the tick around its swollen belly. You might push infected fluid from the tick into your body if you squeeze it.
    • Pull the tick straight out until its mouth lets go of your skin. Do not twist the tick. This may break off the tick's body and leave the head in your skin.
  • Do not try to smother a tick that is attached to your skin with petroleum jelly, nail polish, gasoline, or rubbing alcohol. This may increase your risk of infection.
  • Do not try to burn the tick while it is attached to your skin.
  • Put the tick in a dry jar or ziplock bag and save it in the freezer for later identification if necessary.
  • Wash the area of the tick bite with a lot of warm water and soap. A mild dishwashing soap, such as Ivory, works well.
  • If a bite becomes irritated, apply an antibiotic ointment, such as bacitracin or polymyxin B sulfate, and cover it with an adhesive bandage. The ointment will keep the bite from sticking to the bandage. Note: Stop using the ointment if the skin under the bandage begins to itch or a rash develops. The ointment may be causing a skin reaction.
  • After you remove the tick, wash your hands really well with soap and water.

When you return home from areas where ticks might live, carefully examine your skin and scalp for ticks. Check your pets, too.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 23, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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