5 steps to follow immediately after you find a tick

You’ve probably experienced it — that terrifying moment when you notice a strange bump in your armpit, behind your ear, on your inner thigh, under your boob.

Is it a pimple? An ingrown hair? A cancerous tumor? That marble you ate when you were seven? And that’s when you realize, it’s none of those things…

It’s a stinking tick. One of those bloodsuckers hitched a ride on your Patagonia hiking pants and then weaseled its way into a dark corner of your body.

Now, when you first discover a tick feasting on your flesh, you go through a lot of emotions…

Disgust. Gratitude that you found it and can get it off ASAP. And panic, because you don’t know the best way to do that. The wrong removal approach, after all, can make things worse rather than better. So, what do you need to do?

The best way to remove a tick

According to the experts, the best way to remove a tick is (drumroll, please)…


That’s right. Those Revlon tweezers you bought from Walgreens 15 years ago could save you from Lyme disease. And they only cost $4.99… what a deal!

In a recent Time article, Cornell University Entomologist Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann said that tweezers are the best tick-removing tool. And she explained exactly how to use them…

  • Step one: Grab a pair of tweezers. Your Revlon ones will work as long as they’re fine-tipped (i.e. no flat edges).
  • Step two: Clean the tweezers with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.
  • Step three: Grab the tick with the tweezers, trying to get as close to the skin as you can.
  • Step four: Pull it out by applying straight, even pressure. Don’t yank it or twist it (it’s an insect, not a “Bop It”).
  • Step five: Flush that sucker down the toilet.

Hopefully, you found the tick quickly. It takes 24 to 36 hours for a tick to spread Lyme disease bacteria. Other tick-borne diseases can be transmitted faster. But don’t stress. Just watch out for sudden rashes or flu-like symptoms. If you notice either of these things, head to your doc for a dose of antibiotics.

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What not to do…

Remember when I said there are some removal methods that make the situation worse rather than better? Well, I wasn’t joking…

If you ever find ticks on you and you don’t have a pair of tweezers handy, don’t use Vaseline to suffocate it or light a match and burn it out. Both methods might make the tick embed itself deeper rather than come out.

Related: Protect yourself from the growing threat of Lyme disease

You should also be careful what tweezers you use. Using flat edge tweezers (like the ones that are popular for plucking eyebrows) can squash the tick and cause it to release dangerous pathogens into your body. So, stick to fine-tipped tweezers in all circumstances.

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  1. The Best — and Worst — Ways to Remove a Tick From Your SkinTime
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.