Ticks: How to Avoid and Remove Ticks

Ticks: How to Avoid and Remove Ticks

Overview

Most ticks do not carry diseases, and most tick bites do not cause
serious health problems. But it is important to avoid and check for ticks, and to remove a tick as soon as you
find it. Removing the tick completely may help you avoid diseases such as
Lyme disease that the tick may pass on during feeding,
or a skin infection where the tick bit you.

How to avoid tick bites

  • Learn where ticks and deer that carry ticks are most commonly
    found in your community. Avoid those areas if possible.
  • Cover as much of your body as possible when working or playing
    in grassy or wooded areas. Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants
    with the legs tucked into your socks. Keep in mind that it is easier to spot
    ticks on light-colored clothes.
  • Use
    insect repellents, such as products with DEET.
  • Clear leaves, brush, tall grasses,
    woodpiles, and stone fences from around your house and the edges of your yard
    or garden. This may help reduce ticks and the rodents that
    the ticks depend on.
  • Remove plants that attract deer, and use barriers to keep
    deer—and the
    deer ticks they may carry—out of your yard.
  • Call your local
    landscaping nursery or county extension office to see if your yard can be treated for ticks with nonchemical or environmentally safe methods.

Checking for ticks

  • When you come in from outdoors, check all over your body for
    ticks, including your groin, head, and underarms. Comb your hair with a fine-toothed comb, or have someone check your scalp.
  • Ticks can come into your house on clothing, outdoor gear, and pets. These ticks can fall off and attach to you.
    • Check your clothing and outdoor gear. Remove any ticks you find. Then put your clothing in a clothes dryer on high heat for 1 hour to kill any ticks that might remain.
    • Check your pets for ticks after they have been outdoors.
  • Check
    your children daily for ticks, especially during the summer months.

How to remove a tick

Removing a tick with tweezers

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 could push
    infected fluid from the tick into your body if you squeeze it.
  • Gently 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.
  • If part of the tick stays in the skin, leave it alone. It will likely come out on its own in a few days.
  • Tape the tick to a piece of paper, and put it in a dry jar or a Ziplock bag for later
    identification if needed.

After the tick has been removed, wash the area of the
tick bite with a lot of warm, clean water. Be sure to wash your hands well with soap and water
also.

You may cover the wound with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a nonstick bandage. Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.

Some ticks are so small it is hard to see them. This
makes it hard to tell if you have removed the tick's head. If you do not see
any obvious parts of the tick's head where it bit you, assume you have removed
the entire tick, but watch for
symptoms of a skin infection.

If you have a rash, headache, joint pain, fever, or
flu-like symptoms, this could mean you have an illness related to a tick bite.
If you have any of these symptoms, or symptoms of a skin infection, call your
doctor.

What to avoid

Do not try to:

  • Smother a tick that is stuck to your skin
    with petroleum jelly, nail polish, gasoline, or rubbing
    alcohol.
  • Burn the tick while it is stuck to your skin.

Smothering or burning a tick could make it release
fluid—which could be infected—into your body and increase your chance of
infection.

There are some tick-removal devices that you can buy.
If you are active outdoors in areas where there are a lot of ticks, you may
want to consider buying such a device.

Related Information

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Gammons M, Salam G (2002). Tick removal. American Family Physician, 66(4): 643–646. Also available online: http://www.aafp.org/afp/20020815/643.html.
  • Gentile DA, Lange JE (2001). Tick-borne diseases. In PS Auerbach, ed., Wilderness Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 769–806. St. Louis: Mosby.

Credits

ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine

Current as ofJanuary 22, 2018

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