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How to Remove a Tick

Jun 16, 2014
Removing a tick with tweezers

Ahh, the joys of summer. The sun is shining, the sprinklers are sprinkling, the ice cream truck is tinkling and the ticks are biting. Yes, unfortunately the ticks are out in full force looking for a feast. Never fear, here is your guide to stress free tick wrangling.

Remember prevention is half the battle. Outfit your children with long pants tucked into socks, light colored clothing (for easier tick spotting) and an insect spray with DEET if they are headed into a wooded area. Check them for ticks upon returning. If you happen to find one here are a few simple steps to tick removal.

  1. Don’t Panic

    Ticks are common but most ticks do not carry disease. Furthermore, a tick typically needs to be attached for 24-48 hours to transmit disease. The chances that your child has been infected from a tick bite are low but it is important to remove it promptly to decrease the risk of infection.

  2. Grab a Tool

    Use fine tipped tweezers or a commercial tick removing device (ranging from $5-$10 and can be found online or in camping stores) and grab the tick as close to its mouth (the part in the skin) as possible. Try not to grab the belly as this may cause the tick to inject saliva into the skin which is irritating and may transmit disease.

  3. Pull

    Pull with slow firm steady pressure straight out which should cause the tick to release its mouthparts. The skin may ‘tent’ or pull up slightly as you are pulling; it’s okay, refer to step one (don’t panic) and continue with gentle pressure until it is out. Place the tick in alcohol to kill it. There is no need to save it for testing as most labs will simply identify it as a tick and are unable to determine presence or absence of disease.

  4. Examine, Clean and Survey

    Examine the skin for any remnants of tick mouthparts. If noted, gently try to remove with tweezers. Clean the area and your hands thoroughly with warm soap and water. Monitor the tick bite site for signs of infection or a rash over the next three to four weeks.

What NOT to Do

  • Do NOT try to smother it with petroleum jelly, nail polish gasoline or rubbing alcohol. Ticks are tough dudes and these methods are not effective and can be dangerous
  • Do NOT try to burn the tick. This is dangerous and again, not effective
  • Do NOT twist, jerk or rotate the tick while you are removing it as the head may break off and remain embedded in the skin

When to Call Your Child’s Doctor or Report to an Urgent Care or Emergency Department:

  • If you are unable to remove the tick
  • If there are tick parts remaining in the skin *If there is pain swelling, redness or warmth around the area
  • If there is pus draining from the area
  • If fever, chills, headache, joint pain or flu-like symptoms develop within days to weeks from the initial bite
  • If a “target” rash develops around the bite      
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Heather Battles, MD
Emergency Medicine

Dr. Heather Battles starts her days as a mom of four and ends them as an urgent care physician for Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Westerville Close To Home clinic.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.