The Best Way to Remove a Tick

The Best Way to Remove a Tick

The possibility of tick-borne illnesses gives a sense of urgency to the topic. In chat here at, a mother asked me about the best method for getting ticks off our kids (and animals). People in the room had heard of many methods: applying rubbing alcohol, smothering with Vaseline, painting with fingernail polish, twisting clockwise (or counterclockwise), and touching with a hot match. Though these methods are popular, they are not the best. 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.

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. Check with your local health department to see if they want the tick for monitoring purposes.

Prompt and complete removal of ticks 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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