Ticks are pesky creatures that can latch onto your skin and potentially transmit diseases, such as Lyme disease. Removing a tick correctly and quickly is essential to minimize the risk of infection. In this article, we’ll discuss the proper technique for tick removal.
First, it’s important to have the right tools on hand, such as a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. Avoid twisting or jerking the tick, as this can cause it to break apart, leaving mouth-parts in your skin.
After the tick is removed, be sure to clean the affected area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Monitoring the bite site for any signs of infection or illness is also crucial, especially since symptoms of tick-borne diseases can vary and may take time to appear.
Identifying Different Ticks
In the US, there are several species of ticks, with varying appearances and capabilities to transmit tick-borne diseases.
- Deer Tick: Commonly associated with Lyme disease, these ticks have black legs and reddish-brown bodies.
- American Dog Tick: Transmitting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, they have brown bodies with white or yellow markings.
- Lone Star Tick: Responsible for ehrlichiosis, these ticks display a white, star-shaped marking on their backs.
Ticks are notorious for transmitting various diseases, including:
Tick Season and Regions
Tick activity varies by season and region. Risk is generally higher during the warmer months.
|Disease||Peak Season||High-Risk Regions|
|Lyme disease||Spring and summer||Northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwest regions|
|Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever||April to September||Eastern and Central regions|
|Babesiosis||June to August||Northeast and upper Midwest regions|
|Ehrlichiosis||May to August||Southeastern and south-central regions|
- Pros: Warm weather brings more outdoor activities
- Cons: Higher chance of encountering ticks during this period
Remember, the presence of ticks depends on factors like weather, humidity, and foliage. It’s always best to take tick prevention measures when heading outdoors!
Protecting Yourself from Tick Bites
To minimize the risk of tick bites, follow these simple steps:
- Wear light-colored clothing to easily spot ticks
- Use insect repellent containing DEET or permethrin
- Tuck your pants into your socks
For example, when hiking or walking in tick-infested areas, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
Checking for Ticks on Your Body and Pets
Regular checks are essential for both humans and pets. Here’s how:
- Inspect your body, especially underarms, in and around ears, and behind knees.
- Use a mirror to check hard-to-see areas.
- Check your pet’s fur, especially around the ears, face, and legs.
- Use a flea comb to help detect ticks.
If you find a tick, use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to remove it, grasping the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pulling upward with steady, even pressure.
Tick removal comparison table:
|Fine-tipped tweezers||Accurate, minimal risk of leaving mouth-parts in the skin||Requires steady hands, may be difficult for some|
|Tick removal devices||Designed to remove ticks easily and safely||Some may not be as effective as tweezers|
Remember, prevention is better than cure. Regular checks and precautions can reduce the risk of tick bites and tick-borne diseases.
How to Remove a Tick
Using Fine-Tipped Tweezers
To remove a tick safely, use clean, fine-tipped tweezers. Follow these steps:
- Grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick.
Some advantages of using fine-tipped tweezers include:
- Precise grip on the tick
- Available in many households
- Low risk of leaving mouth-parts in the skin
Alternative Tick Removal Devices
There are other tick removal devices on the market, like:
- Tick removal tool: Similar to tweezers, but specifically designed for removing ticks. They come in various shapes and sizes.
- Credit card tool: A plastic card with a thin, tapered edge to slide under the tick and lift it out.
- Needle: Carefully pick the tick out by using a needle to lift the tick away from the skin.
|Tweezers||Precise grip, readily available||Requires steady hand|
|Removal Tool||Designed for ticks||Not always available|
|Credit Card||Easy to carry, multi-functional||Less precise than tweezers|
|Needle||Good for small ticks||Risk of injury, less precise|
What Not to Use for Tick Removal
Avoid using the following methods for tick removal as they can be harmful or ineffective:
- Nail polish: Coating the tick with nail polish may not cause it to release itself.
- Petroleum jelly: Smothering the tick with petroleum jelly may take too long, increasing the chance of disease transmission.
- Heat: Applying heat to the tick could cause it to regurgitate into the skin, potentially increasing disease risk.
- Tape: Using tape to remove a tick can be difficult and result in leaving mouth-parts in the skin.
After Removing the Tick
Cleaning the Bite Area and Your Hands
Once the tick is removed, it’s crucial to clean the bite area and your hands immediately. Briefly:
- Use rubbing alcohol or soap and water to clean the area
- Make sure to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water
Disposing of the Live Tick
Proper disposal of a live tick is important to minimize the risk of disease transmission. Here are some ways to dispose of a live tick:
- Place it in alcohol
- Put it in a sealed bag or container
- Flush it down the toilet
Do not crush the tick with your fingers.
Monitoring for Symptoms and Follow-Up
After a tick bite, it’s important to watch for possible infection or disease symptoms. Report to your doctor if you notice any symptoms, including:
- Joint pain
Some ticks can transmit diseases, so consider tick testing if:
- You cannot identify the tick
- You’re concerned about disease transmission
Remember not to rely solely on folklore remedies for tick removal, and seek advice from a physician if you have questions about removing ticks.
|Tweezers||Precise, easy to use||May require steady hands|
|Tick removal tool||Designed for the task||May not be readily available|
Overall, it’s essential to remove ticks properly, clean the bite area, dispose of the tick safely, and monitor for symptoms. Following these steps helps to minimize the risk of infection and eases the removal process.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Blood Engorged Tick
Subject: Mystery bug
Location: Boise, Idaho
April 19, 2015 5:51 pm
Just today I found this little guy on my bed, and after some exhaustive research, I still can’t quite figure out what it is!! Any help would be greatly appreciated!!
This is a blood engorged Tick, indicating that it either fed from you or a bedmate, possibly a dog.
Letter 2 – Blood Engorged Tick
Subject: What the…..?
Location: South Park, PA
October 29, 2013 11:04 am
Found this when I returned home on October 28, 2013, in the middle of the mattress my son sleeps on. We had just relocated a bunch of furniture and shampooed the carpets on the entire floor the day before. The legs are very tiny and look barely capable of hauling its load, and I couldn’t make out a head. The ”shell” on its back appeared penetrable and had the feel of bendable plastic. I did not let it crawl on me but was able to pick it up by the back of its ”shell” without any risk of its legs/mouth making contact with my skin. It moved with the characteristics of a hermit crab.
Dear CreepedOut in South Park
Do you have a pet that goes outdoors and then crawls into your son’s bed? This is a blood engorged Tick, and thought its primary mammalian blood food source it furry, it would not pass up an opportunity to feed off of a human. Ticks are known disease vectors and you can educate yourself about Tick borne diseases on the CDC website.
Letter 3 – Blood Engorged Tick
Subject: What is this bug on my puppy?
Location: USA, California, SF Bay Area
December 1, 2013 11:23 am
Hi my name is Bosco and I’m a yellow Labrador. This bug was found feeding on my lower groin area. I acquired this bug in the Coastal Redwoods, late November, sunny day, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The area where the bug latched on is quite red and irritated. This one is quite unlike other bugs that like me. Can you please help me ID this insect?
You had a blood engorged Tick that looks like it had a very good meal at your expense.
Letter 4 – Invasion of Ticks
little black bugs
First found these bugs in the bathroom all over the walls and burrowing in bathroom towels. They are approximately 2mm. A few days later I am starting to find them on the walls in other parts of the house. Maybe they are coming in on the dogs? I live in Miami.
We strongly recommend that you seek professional help. At first we thought this was some species of Soft Tick, Family Argasidae, but people have written in convincing us it is a Hard Tick. Dog Ticks are Hard Ticks in the family Ixodidae. We cannot tell you exactly what species you have, but we did locate information online about the Bat Tick, Carios kelleyi. If you have bats in the attic (we were tempted to say bellfry, but didn’t want to offend you) then that is a good possibility. Another possibility is the Common Fowl Tick, Argas radiatus, which can be found near chicken coops and possibly pigeon roost. Maybe there are birds in the attic. According to Wikipedia: “Soft ticks typically live in crevices and emerge briefly to feed, while hard ticks will attach themselves to the skin of a host for long periods of time.” and “Ticks are second only to mosquitoes as vectors of human disease , both infectious and toxic.” According to the UC Davis site: “Some soft ticks seek hosts by questing on low-lying vegetation, but the vast majority are nest parasites, residing in sheltered environments such as burrows, caves, or nests. Certain biochemicals such as carbon dioxide as well as heat and movement serve as stimuli for host seeking behavior. Soft ticks feed for short periods of time on their hosts, varying from several minutes to days, depending on such factors as life stage, host type, and species of tick. The feeding behavior of many soft ticks can be compared to that of fleas or bedbugs, as once established, they reside in the nest of the host, feeding rapidly when the host returns and disturbs the contents.” Once again, we strongly recommend seeking professional assistance as ticks can bite humans and they do carry diseases. Eric Eaton wrote if questioning the Family: ” Don’t know that the bloated ticks are soft ticks. Remind me more of “regular” hard ticks, though have no idea what genus, species, or even family for that matter. We need to find you an acarologist.”
Your 3/19 tick from Florida is most defintely an engorged hard (Ixodid) tick, as opposed to a soft tick. A slightly clearer picture and we might have a better chance at identifying it. The story about the house being infested with them doesn’t make much sense, since we don’t usually think of ticks “infesting” an area. I also wonder a bit about delusory parasitosis–do you get a number of those in your submissions? Love the site….
Thanks for the correction Bryon. We do get Delusory Parasitosis questions, but we only post the best ones. They never come with images though.
Letter 5 – English Tick
Small black bug
We live in Brighton England. My wife found a black bug attached to her skin last night (photos attached) I could not see anything like it on your web site (or any others). She has been coming up in itchy bumps so this may be the cause. We could not see any more in the bed.
Any help would be appreciated. If we know what it is we may be able to find out what to do about it.
I think you should seek some medical advice, and take that photo with you. This is some type of Tick. I can’t tell you exactly what though. Ticks are notorious for spreading diseases. Once again, seek some professional help.
Letter 6 – Advice on Eradicating Ticks
Ed. Note: October 14, 2013
This comment arrived today from Lauri, and we decided to make it a unique posting.
No doubt in my mind, it’s a tick. When you start to deal with a tick infestation, it can be confusing because they have 3 distinct and very different manifestations, four if you count the egg stage and five if you count engorged adult separately. Infestation is a real problem because the engorged female will crawl off into some dark space to lay a ton of eggs. They don’t hatch for a few weeks, so just when you think you’ve licked them, the tiny hatchlings, very very small and hard to see with out a magnifying glass, will start the cycle again. They feed, then crawl away to change into a nymph then feed again then crawl off to turn into an adult… The two photos presented above show a young adult (I think) and an engorged female who may have laid eggs. After she lays the eggs, her job is done and she Shrivels up and dies. That’s what the adults do; feed, engorge, mate and lay eggs. I wish I didn’t know so much about them, and I really wish I had a cure all miracle for getting rid of the demons, but I don’t. The only real cure is to make sure your animals aren’t breakfast and lunch and you are not dinner. I love a tick remedy called certifect. It has amitraz in it and that chemical can be hard on dogs and should not be used on cats, but it kills any ticks that bite the dogs. It’s been the ONLY dog tick treatment that has worked for us. And clean the room, rooms, house and in my case, boat with a fine tooth brush. They crawl upwards if they can. Check curtains and behind wall outlets. Vacumn and then vacumn again and then vacumn every day for a couple of weeks. Dont miss window sills, behind headboards and dressers. Make sure you empty the vacumn cleaner bag into a sealed plastic bag before you toss or you will be spreading the herd. And of course, check the mattress and wash all linens in hot water. I realize the above post was a few years ago, but there’s so little info online that I thought I might be able to help someone else get rid of these blood sucking pests.
Thanks for your helpful information on Tick control Creating a unique posting from your comment illustrated with photos from our archive will make this much more accessible for our readers.
Letter 7 – Blood Engorged Tick
Subject: OK, it’s still alive…..
November 17, 2013 6:25 pm
So, I submitted an identification request on 10/29/13. Upon submitting the request, I put the bug I wanted identified in an air tight jar. The bug was obviously dead from what I assumed was lack of oxygen, but I just didn’t feel comfortable letting it go in case it’s “shell” was actually a pod holding eggs and we would soon be infested. So today is 11/17/13, and I notice that the bug has climbed up the side of this jar!! Totally freaked out…..no food, no air, no water was ever added.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE identify this bug…..I don’t want to kill it, but I’m holding it captive until I know what it is.
please resubmit your photo. We were away from the office when your original letter arrived and we did not answer any mail during our absence.
Attached are the photos. It is still moving around, but at times appears dead (lying on back with legs pulled in). I did open the jar a few times over the past couple days, and threw in some crumbs, but I don’t know if that would be part of it’s diet. I’m not squeemish, but this bug truly freaks me out.
Let me know if I need to resubmit via the website.
Hi again Kerry,
This is a blood engorged Tick. It can survive a very very long time on the meal it had.
Letter 8 – Blood Engorged Tick
Subject: What kind of bug is this?
Location: Chicago, IL
November 23, 2013 1:19 pm
We’ve seen a few of these in my home the last day or two. I have never seen it before, nor can I find it online. It’s about 3/8” long, and all of the legs are coming out of the front of his ”mouth” it seems. He seems to be dragging this big, bulbous green-brown body behind him.
This is a Tick, and it appears to be engorged with blood, indicating that it has recently fed. Do you have a pet that goes outdoors? This Tick might have gained access to your home by attaching to a pet outdoors, feeding on the blood of the pet and then dropping off the pet in your home.
Yes, thank you! I finally figured it out after searching, and I was really grossed out. I think it came from my dog.
Letter 9 – Fowl Ticks
Subject: Tick-like bugs Found on chick coop
Geographic location of the bug: Phoenix, AZ
Time: 02:46 PM EDT
I don’t think/hope these are not ticks especially since they are in groups. They seek shade when exposed to direct sunlight. Chicks eat them when the can reach. Ticks have been found on my dog (who has been bitten; negative for tick disease). But what are they and should I be worried since I don’t want to use pesticides with my chickens.
How you want your letter signed: pj star
Dear pj star,
These sure look like Soft Ticks based on images posted to BugGuide. According to Everything Poultry: “The Fowl Tick (Argas persicus) may be a serious parasite of poultry if it becomes numerous in poultry houses or on poultry ranges. The tick is a blood-sucker, and when present in large numbers it results in weakened birds, reduced egg production, emaciation and even death. The fowl tick is found throughout most of the South and is extremely hardy. Ticks have been kept alive without food for more than three years. The ticks will feed on all fowl.
Fowl ticks spend most of their lives in cracks and hiding places, emerging at night to take a blood meal. Mating takes place in the hiding areas. A few days after feeding, the female lays a batch of eggs. In warm weather the eggs hatch within fourteen days. In cold weather they may take up to three months to hatch. Larvae that hatch from the eggs crawl around until they find a host fowl. They remain attached to the birds for three to ten days. After leaving the birds they find hiding places and molt before seeking another blood meal. This is followed by additional moltings and blood meals.
Ticks are difficult to eradicate and methods employed must be performed carefully. It is not necessary to treat the birds, but houses and surrounding areas must be treated thoroughly.” There is a nice BioLib image of Argas persicus that looks exactly like your Ticks.
Letter 10 – How To Contact Tick Specialists
your tick ids
I just came across a series of tick pictures and your identifications. You should know that all of the ticks on those pages were hard ticks. If you can see the mouthpart (hypostome) from a dorsal view, then it is a hard tick. Soft ticks always have their “capitulum” (=hypostome and palps) ventral, and from above it is partially or more usually completely concealed. Of course, that trick only works if the mouthpart is present. On tick issues, you are welcome to use www.tickencounter.org as a resource and a referral. I don’t know how many tick “submissions” that you get, but we are trying to encourage just the type of two-way dialogue that you have established with your clients. The Miami infestation is most likely Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicepalus sanguineus) and you were wise to advise a professional pest applicator. These ticks can infest much like fleas and roaches. They usually just take their blood meal from pets. Hope this is useful. Thomas N. Mather, Ph.D.
Professor & Director Center for Vector-Borne Disease
University of Rhode Island
9 East Alumni Avenue, Suite 7
Kingston , RI 02881
Hi Dr. Mather,
We are happy to post your letter at the top of our Tick Page and hope that our readership will contact your Tick Hotsite.
Letter 11 – Last Chance to Get Tickets!!! Bugman at Theodore Payne Foundation Saturday Afternoon
Make reservations now and support the non-profit Theodore Payne Foundation!!!
Local Lepidoptera: Butterflies and Moths of the L.A. Region with Daniel Marlos
Learn What to Plant to attract Painted Ladies to your garden.
Choose Native Plants from the Theodore Payne Nursery. Painted Ladies Migrate through Southern California on their way North in March.
Butterfly Lecture Saturday February 25, 2012
When Sat, February 25, 2012, 1:30pm – 3:30pm
Where Theodore Payne Foundation, 10459 Tuxford St., Sun Valley CA 91352
Description This illustrated overview of butterflies and moths that frequent our local gardens and wild lands includes images of both adult and larval stages, as well as interesting facts on their habits and food preferences. Daniel is an artist and photographer and the author of The Curious World of Bugs: The Bugman’s Guide to the Mysterious and Remarkable Lives of Things That Crawl. The program includes an exploration of Daniel’s popular website, whatsthatbug.com, and ends with a book-signing. Location: Education Center.
Fee: $20 Theodore Payne members, $25 non-members
To register, call 818 768-1802.