If you find a tick attached to your skin, remove the tick as soon as possible. There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers work very well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How to remove a tick
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick. This can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you’re unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- Clean the bite area and your hands thoroughly with rubbing alcohol or soap and water after removing the tick.
- Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick, the CDC advises.
Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible – not waiting for it to detach.
Tick exposure can occur year-round, but ticks are most active during warmer months, April through September. Check this map to find out which ticks are most common in your area.
Before you go outdoors
- Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting could bring you in close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood.
- Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing, and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. As an alternative, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents: External containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or OLE, para-menthane-diol or PMD, or 2-undecanone. EPA’s search tool External can help you find the product that best suits your needs. Always follow product instructions.
- Don’t use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
- Don’t use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
- Avoid contact with ticks
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Walk in the center of trails.
After you come indoors
Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water won’t kill ticks.
Examine gear and pets. Ticks can get into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and daypacks.
Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tickborne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it’s a good opportunity to do a tick check.
Check your body for ticks after being outdoors. Conduct a full body check after you return from potentially tick-infested areas, including your own backyard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:
- Under the arms.
- In and around the ears.
- Inside belly button.
- Back of the knees.
- In and around the hair.
- Between the legs.
- Around the waist.