Cover it with Vaseline. Hold a flame to it. Flick it with a credit card. You’ve probably heard these tips and more when it comes to removing a tick. You can also buy commercial tick-removal tools like a lasso (a hook-like tool), a tick-removal card, and a device that “freezes” the tick.
But which technique is the best to remove a tick completely and reduce the risk of contracting a tick-transmitted illness like Lyme disease? According to a study published online in March 2016 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, a trusty pair of fine-point tweezers is all you need.
Researchers tested standard tweezers against store-bought tick removers to see how well ticks could be fully detached. Remaining mouthparts can cause an infection, so it’s important not to leave any part of the tick crushed or broken off beneath the skin. Except for tweezers, all the methods scored poorly, especially when ticks weren’t fully engorged with the host’s blood.
Previous studies have proved the ineffectiveness of using petroleum jelly, fingernail polish, matches, alcohol, and similar products. Strategies such as those may cause the tick to react by discharging saliva and intestinal secretions under your skin and increase infection risk. While a pair of tweezers is the best tool for removing ticks, your tweezer technique is important, too. Follow these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
• Use fine-point tweezers to grab the tick around its mouthparts.
• Pull the tick out straight with steady, even pressure; don’t rotate it or use a twisting or jerking motion.
• After removal, thoroughly wash the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, soap and water, or an iodine scrub. If you develop a rash or a fever within a few weeks of being bitten by a tick, see your doctor to rule out any tick-borne illness.