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 folk remedies like touching the tick with a lit cigarette and “painting” the tick with nail polish, applying rubbing alcohol or petroleum jelly to make the tick detach from the skin. The application of petroleum jelly, fingernail polish, 70% 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.

There is no experimental evidence for transmission of Lyme disease spirochetes by single infected I. scapularis nymphs to result in host infection when ticks are attached for only 24 h (despite exposure of nearly 90 experimental rodent hosts across multiple studies) but the probability of transmission resulting in host infection appears to increase to approximately 10% by 48 h and reach 70% by 72 h for Borrelia burgdorferi (Eisen, 2018). Thus, the risk of Lyme disease is reduced if the tick is removed within the first two days following attachment. However, other tick-borne pathogens (human anaplasmosis, Powassan virus) may be transmitted much earlier after attachment by the tick.

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.