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Informed Health Online [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-.

Informed Health Online.

Removing ticks

Last Update: April 26, 2012.

This information is part of a feature on ticks. You can find more on this topic here.

If a tick has attached itself to your skin, it is important to remove the tick as soon as possible. This can lower your risk of getting Lyme disease. There are special tools for removing ticks, including tick tweezers, tick-removal cards and hook-like devices. Their shape makes it possible to slide them between the tick and the skin without squeezing the tick. Tools like this are available in pharmacies, for example. Normal tweezers are also an option, as long as the tips of the tweezers bend inwards. If the tips of the tweezers are straight, the tick will be squeezed when you try to get hold of it. This should generally be avoided, because then the germs could be squeezed out of the tick and into your body.

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A tick-removal card can be used as follows:

  • Slide the tick-removal card between the skin and the tick.
  • Push the tick out of the skin, keeping the card close to the skin.
  • Do not try to pull the tick out of the skin using the card. It would slip through the slit in the card.

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(Tick) tweezers can be used as follows:

  • Grab hold of the tick as close to the skin as possible using the tweezers.
  • Slowly pull the tick out.
  • If the tick does not come out, twisting it slightly can help. It does not matter which direction you twist it in.

If you do not have any suitable tools, you could also try to remove the tick using your fingernails. It is important to get hold of the tick’s head as close to the skin as possible, and avoid squeezing it with your fingers.

Once you have removed the tick, you can disinfect the site of the tick bite – for instance, with alcohol – and inspect the area to see whether you managed to remove all of the tick. If the mouthparts have been left behind you might see a small black dot. Mouthparts can be removed by a doctor and are generally not dangerous.

In the past people recommended putting things like nail polish, glue, toothpaste, alcohol or oil on the tick first, to try to suffocate it. But it can take a very long time for ticks to fall out of the skin using this approach, so it could even increase the risk of infection.

Author: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG)

© IQWiG (Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care)

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