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How to (and how NOT to) remove a tick

Author: Mosquito Squad of Southeastern Nassau

Tick season is in full swing here in the Northeast, and once again, we’re seeing and hearing from many people on social media their suggestions for how to remove ticks. Various “home remedies” and suggestions that people make include smothering a tick with peppermint oil, nail polish, or vaseline, or even applying heat from a burnt match or the end of a cigarette to remove it.

These are all very bad suggestions and not only do we not endorse them, but we highly discourage even trying them, and here’s why.

When a tick is smothered or otherwise agitated, its natural response is to automatically spew out of its mouth. Generally, a tick must be attached for at least 24 hours before disease is transmitted, however, this can greatly increase your risk of becoming infected much quicker if the tick is a carrier of Lyme disease or another dangerous pathogen.

The “apply heat” technique doesn’t work for the same reasons, and people need to understand that different ticks have different “attachment tenacities.” Adult Lone Star and deer ticks have longer and stronger mouthparts that they insert into the skin than other species, and deer ticks even secrete a cement that glues them to the skin of their host. Attached ticks in their nymph stage are too small to risk touching with heat without burning one’s self, plus it’s difficult for the average person to identify which kind of tick is attached and life stage it is in.

There is only one safe, correct way to remove a tick, and that is by using pointy tweezers. Common household tweezers aren’t the right tool for the job; using these increases the chance of agitating the tick and not properly removing it.

With your pointy tweezers, try to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. Then, in a slow, steady motion, pull upwards until it comes out. Don’t wiggle the tweezers and the tick back and forth. Just pull directly outward from the skin. Then, wipe the extraction point on the skin with rubbing alcohol.

Watch the video below for a demonstration:


Video courtesy of the Tick Encounter Resource Center.

Of course, it’s safe to say that nobody would want to find themselves in a position where they’d need to remove a tick in the first place. For the most effective tick control you can find, call Mosquito Squad of Southeastern Nassau at (516) 874-3003 to eliminate 90% or more of ticks on your property for three weeks at a time. We look forward to hearing from you!