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How to remove a tick without tweezers

Whether ticks are a problem all year round where you live or just a few seasons out of the year, they do pose a serious health hazard. Ticks can transmit infectious diseases like Lyme disease, which can cause chronic and debilitating health problems if left untreated.

You’ve probably heard it said that you should use tweezers to remove a tick. However, this should be avoided if possible because the chance is high that part of the tick will break off underneath your skin. Gross, we know. Don’t despair; there are ways remove a tick safely without using tweezers and keep the area around the bite from becoming inflamed and risking any infection.

walking in woods tick sign
Heiko Barth/Shutterstock

How to remove a tick without tweezers

Start with a cotton ball soaked in either rubbing alcohol or liquid dish soap and place it on the tick. This not only cleans the area surrounding the bite but can also motivate the tick to back itself out of the skin.

For a swift removal, use thin, unwaxed floss or another type of thin string (preferably waxed) to wrap around the tick’s head, as close to the skin as possible, and pull. Just be sure you pull straight up to avoid it sticking underneath.

Once the tick has been removed, clean the skin with soap and water and dry your skin off. Put the tick in a container with alcohol and label it with the date it was removed in case you start showing symptoms of Lyme disease or another tick-borne illness. This allows you to bring it to the doctor, where they can quickly identify the type of tick and a treatment plan.

Tick remover kits

There are tick removal tool kits available online that can help you feel more confident removing a tick on your own. This TickCheck kit is available on Amazon and comes with two tick remover tools that allow you to remove ticks of all sizes. Simply slide the “fork” underneath the tick’s head and pry it in an upward motion. This kit also comes with a tick identification card to help you identify what type of tick you are dealing with, so you know if there is cause for concern.

If you’re concerned you may have encountered a virus-carrying tick, call your doctor right away. While many tick bites are harmless, there are a few that can lead to some truly concerning health complications, such as Lyme disease.

What is Lyme disease?

Tick bites can be found anywhere, but they’re usually found in hard-to-see places like the groin, scalp, and under your arms. If a tick bite is left untreated, Lyme disease (as well as other diseases) can cause health problems that affect a person’s joints, heart, and nervous system. If caught early, you can be treated with antibiotics, and there shouldn’t be long-term effects.

One way to spot an offending tick is if you notice a skin rash that looks like a bullseye, or if you experience a fever, chills, fatigue, or muscle aches after the bite. If that happens, call your doctor immediately.

Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI) is another condition that can be caused by a tick bite. This can also form a bullseye pattern around the site of the tick bite but has different symptoms and treatment plans. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), also carried by ticks, can cause a rash that does not look like a bullseye, but it can cause illness, so if you are unsure at all, please visit your doctor for a thorough check.

checking for ticks
Kamaji Ogino/Pexels

Keep ticks at bay

None of this sounds fun, we know, and while we can’t guarantee you’ll never get a tick bite, there are things you can do to minimize the likelihood you’ll encounter these little creatures in the wild.

Prevention is one of the best ways to manage tick season. This can be hard if you’re an avid outdoors person, but not impossible. Walking on trails versus in wooded areas, wearing long sleeves and long pants, and avoiding grassy areas during tick season are all easy ways to help avoid ticks.

After you spend time outside, always do a tick check of your body, especially in your hair, behind your ears, in your groin area, and on the backs of your knees. Ticks like dark, warm places and they aren’t always easy to spot. Depending on the tick type, they can be as small as a grain of dirt. Be diligent about looking — it could prevent serious health problems in the future.

Getting outside is great, but so is being safe. If you do discover a tick has latched onto your body, don’t panic, reach for our simple tick removal guide, and remember: when in doubt, call your doctor. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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