At Home Tick Removal: The Best Way to Remove a Tick

The Best Way to Remove a Tick

According to a recent article in The New York Times, “Rates of Lyme, Zika and exotic new diseases are soaring. Federal officials blame hotter weather, jet travel, forested suburbs and slow vaccine development.” The possibility of tick-borne illnesses gives a sense of urgency to tick removal.

Several methods are in common use, but not all are equally effective: applying rubbing alcohol, smothering with Vaseline, painting with fingernail polish, twisting clockwise (or counterclockwise), and touching with a hot match. Though popular, none of these are the best tick removal method.

Tick Removal at Home

Use tweezers to grasp the tick as near to the mouthparts (and as close to the skin) as possible. Use gentle, steady, straight force to pull the tick out. The site should then be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected with alcohol or another disinfectant.

Check with your local health department to see if they want the tick for monitoring purposes. If not, the tick can be killed by soaking in rubbing alcohol or flushing down the toilet (it should not be crushed or squeezed). Hands should be washed afterwards.

Prompt and complete tick removal does help prevent illness. This is a situation where the folk remedies can do more harm than good.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

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