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Removing a Tick

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A tick has bitten you and is embedded in your skin...Now What?

Don't panic. Your chances of acquiring Lyme disease are low if the tick is removed during the first 24 to 36 hours after attachment.

Remove the tick promptly and properly:

  • Using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  • Gently pull the tick in a steady, upward motion.
  • Wash the area with a disinfectant.

When trying to remove the tick:

  • Do not touch the tick with your bare hands.
  • Do not squeeze the body of the tick as this may increase your risk of infection.
  • Do not put alcohol, nail polish remover or Vaseline on the tick.
  • Do not put a hot match or cigarette on the tick in an effort to make it "back out."
  • Do not use your fingers to remove the tick.

These methods do not work and only increase the likelihood the tick will transmit Lyme disease to you. Applying alcohol, nail polish remover, or a hot match can irritate a tick and cause it to regurgitate its stomach contents into your skin. The stomach contents of a tick can contain the Lyme disease-causing bacterium.

Instead of tweezers, you may also use a special tick removal device, which is usually shaped like a slotted spoon. These tick removal devices can be purchased at a pharmacy or other retail outlet.

Under no circumstances should you try to remove an embedded tick by using your fingers. It is better to wait a little while, if necessary, until you have access to tweezers or a tick removal device and remove the tick properly, than to increase your risk of infection by trying to remove it with your fingers.

While removing a tick, if the tick's mouth parts break off and remain in your skin, don't worry. The mouth parts alone cannot transmit Lyme disease, because the infective body of the tick is no longer attached. The mouth parts can be left alone. They will dry up and fall out by themselves in a few days, or you can remove them as you would a splinter.

After cleaning the area, watch the site of the bite for the appearance of a rash 3 to 30 days after the bite. The rash will usually be at least 2 ½ inches in diameter initially and will gradually expand to several inches in size. Rashes smaller than the size of a quarter are usually a reaction to the bite itself and do not mean you have Lyme disease.

Above all, be patient. Firmly embedded ticks are difficult to remove and it may take some time.

American Lyme Disease Foundation's Educational Videos

Learn how to remove a tick by visiting the American Lyme Disease Foundation website and viewing one of their educational videos.