University of Wisconsin–Madison

Tick Removal

How to properly remove an embedded tick: as easy as 1…2…3!!
1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
2. 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 are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

Avoid home remedies like painting the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly.  The application of petroleum jelly, fingernail polish, isopropyl alcohol, or a hot kitchen match failed to induce detachment of adult American dog ticks (Dermacentor variabilis Say) attached for either 12 to 15 hours or three to four days. These methods are not effective and may cause the tick to regurgitate into the bite wound (Needham GJ, 1985). You want to remove the tick as quickly as possible–do not wait for it to detach by itself.

Q.  How long does it take a tick to transmit Lyme bacteria?

A.  For nymphal deer ticks, more than 90 experimental studies with rodents indicates no transmission of the Lyme spirochete within the first 24 hours after a single tick attaches.  The probability of transmission increased to approximately 10% by 48 hours and 70% by 72 hours (Eisen, 2018). Thus, the risk of Lyme disease is reduced if the tick is removed within the first two days following attachment. In rodent studies, when more than 1 tick attached, the length of time required for transmission was less than 24 hours.

Q.  What about adult deer ticks?

A.  There are no studies that examined the timing of transmission of Lyme disease spirochetes following adult deer tick attachment.

Q.  What about other tick-borne pathogens (like human anaplasmosis, Powassan virus)?

A.  Other pathogens may be transmitted much earlier after attachment by the tick.

References
Eisen, Lars. “Pathogen transmission in relation to duration of attachment by Ixodes scapularis ticks.” Ticks and tick-borne diseases (2018).

Needham GJ. (1985). Evaluation of five popular methods for tick removal. Pediatrics; 75(6): 997-1002. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/75/6/997.full.pdf