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How to remove a tick

How to remove a tick
A tick can carry and transmit diseases that pose a serious health risk to humans (Image credit: SCIEPRO/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY)

Do you know how to remove a tick? With tick populations on the rise and more of us enjoying the outdoors than ever before, the chances of discovering one of these blood-sucking little arachnids burrowed into your skin after a day in the wild seem disconcertingly high right now. If you do find one enjoying a buffet on your body, don’t panic – knowing how to remove a tick and doing it quickly is an effective means of reducing your exposure to tick-borne illnesses.

Ticks are parasitic arachnids found in every continent. Just like us, they enjoy areas with dense vegetation, such as woodland and grasslands. They can’t fly, so to travel they latch on to their host as it brushes by and then stay there for hours or days having a feast. Usually, the unlucky host will be a deer or a rabbit, but sometimes it’s the succulent-looking leg of an unsuspecting hiker. The vast majority of tick bites are nothing to worry about, but it’s important to know that some ticks do carry and transmit illnesses that pose a potential health risk to humans, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

overgrown railroad tracks through a dense forest

Overgrown railroad tracks through a dense forest (Image credit: Alex Walker)

If you are venturing into tick terrain, you’ll want to read our detailed article on how to avoid ticks and take preventative measures such as wearing long-sleeved base layers and investing in a good insect repellent. For this piece, we are focusing on how to remove a tick if you get bitten by one. 

According to the CDC, your risk for contracting Lyme disease from a tick is very low if it is attached to your skin for less than 36 hours, so it is worth checking your skin thoroughly for ticks after you’ve been adventuring in the wild, and if you find one, you should remove it immediately. Though it is true that a tick will eventually detach itself, absolving you of the slightly gruesome task of pulling it out, leaving it in increases your chances of contracting a tick-borne illness and of the tick going on to lay eggs in your home. 

How to remove a tick

1. Use tweezers

Don’t try pulling the tick out with your fingers – you want to reduce the risk of bursting the tick on your skin, which increases your exposure to germs. Instead, use a pair of clean tweezers and grasp the tick as close as you can to your skin.

2. Pull it straight out

Using steady, even pressure, pull the tick straight out. Don’t twist or wiggle the tweezers – this can cause the tick to rupture or the mouth-parts to break off and remain in your skin. If this does happen, try to remove the mouth-parts with the tweezers. If you cannot do so easily, leave them alone and let your skin heal naturally. 

ticks

A tick burrowing into the skin of its host (Image credit: Getty)

3. Clean the affected area

After you have removed the tick, it is important to clean the affected area thoroughly. Use rubbing alcohol or another disinfectant to ensure proper hygiene. 

4. Dispose of the tick properly

According to the CDC’s website, this step is very important to avoid the tick laying eggs or just burrowing back in for another feast. If you’re home, the best means of disposal is to just flush the little mite down the toilet. If you’re still out in the wild, place it in a sealable bag. You can also place a tick in alcohol or wrap it tightly in tape.

Finally, if you develop a rash or fever within a few weeks of a tick bite, call your healthcare provider.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Adventure.com. She is an author, mountain enthusiast and yoga teacher who loves heading uphill on foot, ski, bike and belay. She recently returned to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland after 20 years living in the USA, 11 of which were spent in the rocky mountains of Vail, Colorado where she owned a boutique yoga studio and explored the west's famous peaks and rivers. She is a champion for enjoying the outdoors sustainably as well as maintaining balance through rest and meditation, which she explores in her book Restorative Yoga for Beginners, a beginner's path to healing with deep relaxation. She enjoys writing about the outdoors, yoga, wellness and travel. In her previous lives, she has also been a radio presenter, music promoter, university teacher and winemaker.