There is a right way and a wrong way to removing a tick from one’s body or pet and choosing incorrectly can result in exposure to tick-borne disease.

The Centers for Disease Control warns us to 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. The goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible and without irritating the tick. Applying petroleum jelly or any other wet substance such as an essential oil only makes the tick slippery and more difficult to grasp in the removal process.

Many methods of tick removal have proved to be unsatisfactory in controlled studies; some even cause harm by inducing the tick to salivate and regurgitate into the host. Ticks are best removed as soon as possible as the risk of disease transmission increases the longer the attachment. Antibiotic prophylaxis following tick removal is a hotly debated conversation among medical providers, but may be considered in regions endemic to tick-borne disease. Per the federal CDC, Maine is considered an endemic state.

There are many tick remover products on the market, but how effective are they are removing a tick? I recently spoke with my friend, Dan Wolfe, owner of Tick Ease (tickease.com), a dual-sided tick remover designed to safely and effectively remove ticks of all stages (larval, nymph, adult) from people and pets. He designed his tick remover with a 45-degree angle at one end for tight, hard to reach places. The opposite end is for removing larger embedded ticks. We discussed how a tick attaches and what the proper and improper methods of removing a tick were and why.

Ticks first burrow into the host’s skin with two telescoping, “barbed” structures called chelicerae. They then perform a breaststroke maneuver with the chelicerae, spreading them like arms and pulling them back. That motion sinks a spiky, sword-like appendage into the host. Positioned alongside the chelicerae, the shaft, called a hypostome, forms a tube for withdrawing blood.

There are tick removal gadgets on the market that encourage twisting, however, the anatomy of the tick reveals that with a barbed mouthpiece, twisting the tick will ensure breaking off pieces and leaving them impacted in the skin. If you do not have a tick remover on hand, a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers or a tick spoon or key, when used properly, will work just fine. If you find getting the tick spoon or key into a small area is a challenge, grab the tweezers!

How to remove a tick:
• Using a set of fine-tipped, pointed tweezers, grasp as close to the skin’s surface as possible.

• You want to pull in a steady, upward motion. Do not twist or jerk on the tick as this can cause the tick to break off into the skin.

• After you have removed the tick, put it in a Ziploc to have it tested. Even if it breaks into pieces, you can still have it tested.

• Thoroughly clean the bite site and tweezers with rubbing alcohol, and wash your hands with soap and water.

DO NOT
• Poke with sharp object (needle, scissors)

• Crush, puncture, or squeeze the tick’s body

• Apply substances such as petroleum jelly, gasoline, lidocaine, or essential oils to the tick

• Apply heat with a match or hot nail

• Use a twisting or jerking motion to remove the tick

Paula Jackson Jones is president and co-founder of Midcoast Lyme Disease Support and Education, the Maine-partner of the national Lyme Disease Association and member of Maine’s CDC Vector-borne Workgroup. She can be reached at:
[email protected] or mldse.org