Removing Ticks

I have seen several blogs lately about wood ticks. Most of the advice is reasonably good. However, I take exception to some of the glib instructions about removing ticks in the backcountry. They all seem to be copied from the same source: “get a pair of tweezers and pull the tick out. If the head stays in, see your doctor”. It takes 2 weeks to get to see my doctor! Here is the way I remove an embedded tick with its head intact. My success rate is 100%.

For most body locations you can’t remove the tick yourself, so brief your partner. If you have fine-pointed medical tweezers, use them. Most hair-pulling drug store tweezers are too clumsy, you’re better off using your fingers.

  • Carefully part the hair around the tick so you can get at it (ticks usually dig in to a hairy part). Spread the skin taut if necessary.
  • If you have fine-pointed tweezers, insert them between the tick and the skin, otherwise grasp the tick very gently between thumb and forefinger, pushing down on the skin (long nails help). Try not to squeeze the body so as to prevent harmful bacteria from the tick entering your bloodstream. If the tick is engorged with blood, you should definitely use tweezers. By then you are probably at home. No tweezers; try sliding the tines of a fork between the skin and the engorged tick.
  • Pull very carefully until the skin puckers slightly. Hold it there. In 15 to 30 seconds the tick will withdraw its head. Easy!
  • If your a gadget fan look at Ticked Off. See also Tick Info.
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6 comments… add one
  • Jackie Jun 10, 2015, 7:57 pm

    Perhaps it’s only the power of positive thinking, but what has worked for us is to smear the tick site with cream. Could be sunscreen, bug lotion, antibacterial cream, cooking oil or similar. Some say it blocks the ticks breathing and relaxes its grip. Anyway it was easy to remove.

  • Tony Daffern Jun 21, 2013, 8:21 am

    Sounds like the tick’s head is still embedded. If it doesn’t heal in a couple of days he should see his doctor and get it removed.

  • Lesley Jun 21, 2013, 6:22 am

    My husband found a tick on his hairline a few days ago while fishing, he pulled it off, we are not sure if the head is still imbedded. He now has a small pussy area, do we squeeze this out or do we let it come to a head on its own? I cleaned it initially with peroxide, and put an antibiotic ointment on it.

  • another rider Jul 4, 2011, 2:39 pm

    don’t use fire/heat, any doctor or medical reference material will tell you that will increase the risk of the tick expelling material in your body (thereby increasing the risk on infection).

    Will a hot needle/match head help to get the tick out? Probably.

    Will a hot needle/match head increase your risk for infection? Definitely.

  • mike Jun 27, 2011, 10:20 pm

    Heat works well (I found a heated-up knife worked better than a suggested match head), so long as you don’t do it wrong and roast them πŸ˜‰ before they can extricate themselves.

  • Ronzoni Jun 25, 2011, 6:35 pm

    This is good advice. After the tick attaches you have about 24 hours to get it out before you’re at risk of acquiring disease from it. Although there have been no cases of proven human Lyme disease acquired locally in Alberta, there were 3 ticks found in a tick survey to contain the Lyme disease organism, so it’s theoretically possible that it might begin to happen.
    MEC sells some interesting looking tick pliers; I’m waiting for my next one to try them out. If you do acquire a tick, it’s a good idea to put it into a container for a couple of weeks once you get it out so that if any kind of disease symptoms occur you can bring it in and have it evaluated to help with the diagnosis.

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