What to Do If You've Been Bitten by a Tick

  • Tick on ruler
    Keep your cool—and the tick.
    Ticks are small spider-like insects that attach to the skin of animals and people and feed off of their blood. Ticks can give people infections, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, if they remain attached to your skin for several hours. If you find a tick on your skin, it’s important to remove it the right way to prevent getting an infection. Then, put it in a zip-top bag or covered container to show your doctor.

  • Tick on Skin
    Don’t panic.
    A tick typically needs to remain attached to your skin for 36—or more—hours to give you an infection. If you always check your skin for ticks immediately after you’ve been outdoors in wooded areas, you’ll likely find and remove any ticks before that time. On top of that, not all ticks carry infection. So if you see a tick on your skin, take a breath and remove the tick the right way.

  • Lighters Matches
    Forget the folk remedies.
    Old-school recommendations for removing ticks include burning them or smothering them with nail polish or Vaseline petroleum jelly. But these methods don’t work and may cause the tick to burrow deeper and release more saliva. This puts you at greater risk of injury or infection. Instead, follow the latest national recommendations for safely removing ticks.

  • Tweezers
    Have the right tools ready.
    Find or buy tweezers with thin, smooth points. These will be the most effective for grasping and removing the tick. Find a zip-top bag or a covered container to put the tick in after removal. Then fill a small container with rubbing alcohol. You could use the covered container. Keep the rubbing alcohol bottle and a cotton pad ready. Put all of this near a well-lit sink with soap and water.

  • Tick Removal
    Grasp and pull upward.
    Take the tweezers and slide the points between your skin and the tick’s head. Get as close to the skin as possible. Grasp the tick, and slowly but firmly pull straight upward, away from your skin. Try not to yank or twist the tick. The goal is to pull out all of the tick including its mouth parts. If you pull the tick off but see its mouth parts still in your skin, try to remove them as well. Let you doctor know if any parts remained in your skins.

  • Tick in sample jar in research lab
    Preserve the tick and clean the bite area.
    Put the tick in the container of rubbing alcohol you set aside. This will kill the tick but also preserve it. You can also transfer the tick to a zip-top bag after submersing it in alcohol. Your doctor may want to see it to determine what kind of tick bit you. Then swab the tick bite area with rubbing alcohol, and wash your hands and the tweezers with plenty of soap and warm water.

  • woman eating salad and checking phone
    Call your doctor.
    Not all ticks carry infections. But to be on the safe side, call your doctor’s office and let them know that you have just removed a tick from your skin and if there are any parts left in your skin. They may ask to see you—and the tick—right away. Or they may advise you to wait and watch for symptoms.

  • Woman with flu
    Know the symptoms.
    Early symptoms of tick-borne disease can emerge a few days to a few weeks after a tick bite. The symptoms include a rash, fatigue, fever, chills, joint pain or swelling, headache, or body aches. If symptoms appear, call your doctor. The sooner you treat the infection, the sooner its effect will fade. Treatment for the most common tick-borne diseases is an antibiotic medication taken by mouth.

What to Do If You've Been Bitten by a Tick

About The Author

  1. Hey! A tick bit me! KidsHealth from Nemours. http://kidshealth.org/kid/watch/out/tick.html
  2. Lyme Disease. American Lyme Disease Foundation. http://www.aldf.com/lyme.shtml
  3. Symptoms of Tickborne Illness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/symptoms.html
  4. Tick Removal: A Step-by-Step Guide. KidsHealth from Nemours. http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/emergencies/tick_removal.html?tracking=P_RelatedArticle
  5. Tick Removal. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/removal/index.html
  6. Needham GR. Evaluation of five popular methods for tick removal. Pediatrics 1985; 75:997
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Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 13
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.