If you’ve never had to deal with a tick before, you might be thinking that devoting an entire article to removing one seems like much ado about nothing. To you, I say: no ticks for you, bottom of the class, see me after school.
Tick removal can be quite a delicate and precise business, and it’s exactly because of this widespread lack of awareness about correct tick removal that many people inadvertently cause infection, disease or irritation in themselves and/or their pets.
So, how do I do it?
What is the Best Way to Remove a Tick?
Let’s jump right into the issue. The reason you can’t (or rather shouldn’t) simply wrench a tick out with your fingers as soon as you spot one is because they’re usually latched on pretty damn tight.
So whereas it seems like it’d be an easy task just to pry it out of your skin – it’s a case of something being easier said than done.
More importantly, by improperly removing a tick, you run the risk of tearing the beastie in half and leaving the mandibles/head area sunk beneath the skin.
Ticks are essentially little sacks on legs and unfortunately, the only part we can really see or get at is the big blood filled bag at the back – by squeezing this too hard or wrenching at it, we can basically turn the tick into a tube of toothpaste: pushing all the blood, germs and…body parts out the front end and into our bodies.
Yay! Subterranean bits of highly infectious dead thing stuck in the skin!
The basic method for handling a tick quickly and effectively yourself is to get your hands on a pair of thin, pointed, needle-nosed tweezers (or something similar). The more precise the tool, the better.
You then want to try and hold the tick as close to the skin as you possibly can – again, we’re trying to avoid bursting or squeezing the actual bug itself. Once you’ve got a gentle, but firm, hold on the tick, slowly pull it out but do not twist the tweezers whilst doing so.
And don’t twist – twisting will likely wrench the body from the ‘beak’ extremities at the front.
Tips on removing ticks:
- Sterilize the tweezers before taking action – remember you’re basically digging into an open wound. Immediately clean the wound after you’ve removed the tick, with antiseptic or rubbing alcohol.
- Perhaps save the tick in a container in case you want to run it past a medical expert if you begin to exhibit any troublesome signs of infection.
- Don’t use your fingers or blunt tweezers.
Is there another DIY tick removal tool?
The handy tweezer trick is one of a bunch of DIY tick removal methods that many tick victims may recommend to you, but they’re not all as successful or safe. Let’s take a look at a few:
String or floss
Many folks recommend using thin string or tooth floss if there are no tweezers available. The method here is to very, very delicately tie a small ‘noose’ like knot around the tick’s ‘head’ area and then slowly pull it out like a car being towed from a marsh.
Technically, the thinking is sound but the application leaves a lot to be desired. It’s very difficult to tie such a small knot around the tick without causing any damage, and even more difficult to avoid twisting or turning the head/mouth pieces as you pull the string outward.
We’d advise against this.
Hot match or needle
Remember all those old cartoons where some anthropomorphic animal gets stuck in a cat flap or a chimney, somebody else lights a fire beneath its backside and suddenly it leaps free? That’s, in a roundabout way, the theory behind the hot match/needle technique for ridding oneself of ticks.
The idea is that you light a match, let it burn for a few seconds and then blow it out; apply the still hot-match head to the tick’s backside or sack and it should squirm its way out from your skin, wanting to get the hell out of there as fast as possible.
Ditto with a hot needle.
There is evidence to show that this actually works, despite how farcical it sounds, but it’s rarely a clean break. The tick is removing itself out of sheer stress – which often means it’s likely to drip more saliva into the wound if not vomit up its potentially infectious stomach contents altogether…Not. Good. Don’t do this.
The old ‘nail polish trick’ is widely regarded as an urban myth these days, but there are still a few who stand by it. The thinking is garbled, with this one; some people say the intention is to ‘suffocate’ the tick so that it removes its mouth from the flesh.
Others say that the nail polish should harden over the tick and make it much easier to simply detach without any of the finicky, gently gently stuff with tweezers.
However, this method really isn’t recommended for basically the same reason that the hot match is relegated to the dumpster these days: if you smother something in a fast-drying, toxic substance… It’s going to panic.
This also applies to Vaseline (another variation on the suffocation trick). Vaseline and other gelatinous substances will suffocate the tick, but it can take anywhere between a few hours to a couple of days, and that’s a stupendous amount of time for tick stomach acid and fluids to seep into the wound.
Another popular method is to use liquid soap or dishwasher liquid… this is normally used for intrepid ticks that have found their way into very difficult to reach places of the body (think your scalp, or neck); that you simply can’t get to with tweezers by yourself.
The accepted application is to squeeze some onto a cloth or cotton bud and then hold it against the tick for half a minute or so; it should stick to the tick like glue and lift right out once you pull the cloth back.
This has been known to work, and it might be useful if you want to get the tick out fast and have nobody around to help; but the usual stipulations apply about stressing the creature out.
So when it comes to these various, creative home remedies for tick removal – it’s pretty much gospel that the best method is using tweezers or one of the best tick removal tools on the market today.
What is the best tick removal tool?
Some savvy product designers noticed the gap in the market for a specific tick-removal tool and the result? A bunch of tick tools that are much better than reaching around with tweezers or risky DIY methods.
Let’s take a look at a few of the best ones!
Tick Ease Tick Removal Tweezers
The Tick Ease tick removal tool is the closest thing to tweezers on this list – somewhere between small forceps and curved needle-nosed tweezers.
The Tick Ease tool is designed with both humans and pets in mind – with two different ends, one slotted and wide for animals and the other with incredibly thin tips and a scooping shape to better catch the tick in its grip when it comes to the pulling action.
Just get yourself a set of the stainless steel Tick Ease removal tool for a happy, tick-less existence.
Ticked Off Tick Remover
Moving away from the traditional shape and application of the Tick Ease tool, Ticked Off is designed something like a large, deep, slotted spoon or bowl.
This product is a little less engineered; made from a light plastic and only having one means of removal – but the bowl shape provides a very handy collection area for the tick after removal meaning you can safely dispose of or retain the little biter if you wish.
As you might expect from a simpler device made from plastic – you’ll only be parting with a couple bucks for the Ticked Off remover.
We’re way out on a limb now with the Tick Key tool – looking nothing like any other traditional tick remover, the Tick Key looks like, well…a key, which makes it great to take on the go.
This product is designed to hang around dog collars with ease: a flat, plectrum like shape with a teardrop loop/catcher at the bottom, allowing you to quickly nab the tick and then pull it out in one motion.
This does feel like a device that’s better suited for animals than humans, if only for the practicality of hanging it on a pet’s collar – but it’s hard to argue when you get three removers for what you’d normally pay for just one!
Usually, I’m a harsh advocate for DIY methods where they exist; but when it comes to something as delicate and potentially serious as safely removing a tick – I’d recommend opting for one of the excellent products listed above.
So, there. Go remove yourself some ticks!