How to remove a tick (and prevent Lyme Disease)

I recently got a phone call from someone who thought she had a tick on her, so I thought it might be useful to discuss the right–and the wrong–way to remove a tick. If you don’t take the tick off correctly, it won’t let go. It will just keep on cheerfully sucking your blood and pumping pathogens into you!

First, DO NOT do any of these things to the tick:

  • Put vasoline on it
  • Put fingernail polish over it
  • Put Mineral Oil on it
  • Drench it with Whiskey, Wine, or other alcoholic beverages.
  • Stick a lit match on it (or a recently extinguished match)
  • Especially do not combine the above flammable materials with the match treatment! :)

Not only will this not effectively remove the tick, but it may cause the tick to barf up its gut contents into your wound. Ew.

You should remove the tick with tweezers. End of story.remove a tick

Here’s the process:

  1. Grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible with tweezers. Don’t squeeze the body! You risk compressing the guts and expelling bacteria through the tick’s mouth into your body.
  2. Pull the tick out straight with a slow, steady motion. Don’t twist–this again can compress the guts.
  3. Save the tick, if you live in an area with tick borne-disease.

Ok, the tick’s off of you. But what should you be looking out for if you fear Lyme Disease?

First, make a guess what sort of tick you have. The tick that carries Lyme is a tiny little bastard–this photo will give you a sense of the size.

The first symptom of Lyme is a rash, with the fancy name of Erythema Migrans. It’s fairly distinctive, and sometimes develops into a “bulls-eye” rash. Seek medical attention ASAP if you develop a red rash around your bite!

The best thing for you to do is to prevent the problem in the first place by wearing a repellent. DEET containing materials are the only reliable products for tick repellancy right now. You can also get some nifty clothes that have repellent right in the fabric.

Burn all the citronella candles you want–you’ll just get the ticks in the mood. (Playing some Barry White might also be helpful.)

If you don’t want to wear repellent, how about looking at the CDC list of tick-borne diseases for some motivation?