Whether there’s a tick on you or your pet, if you don’t know how to remove it the right way, you may make that nasty little bug bite in deeper and end up with an infection in the process. Here’s how to check for them and remove them safely.
How to Check for Ticks
If you’ve spent time in the outdoors, especially in wooded areas, you may have come in contact with ticks. In areas populated with ticks, the ticks hang out on dense foliage, grass, trees, and bushes, waiting for a warm-animal like you, your kids, or your pets, to come strolling along before hopping on for a ride and a snack.
Ticks aren’t always easy to find, and it’s not uncommon for them to go undiscovered until you get home. They like to hide in dark areas. This means you need to check yourself from head to toe (literally).
Comb through your hair with your fingers, making sure to touch your scalp the entire time. Check in all of your nooks and crannies, and look at your back in a mirror. If you discover one in a place that isn’t visible, it might feel like a little scab (ticks are tiny and rough before they become engorged after extensive feeding). Verify that’s really a scab and not a bug!
On pets, you’ll need to do the same thing you did on your head, run your fingers through their coat all over. Check bellies and in places that a tick would like to hide, such as under their ears, behind their legs, and so on.
Most ticks are a brownish color, but there are many types of ticks, and it’ll depend on where you live on which ones are around. Different ticks carry different diseases. While not all tickborne diseases affect animals, some can, including Lyme disease. If you live in an area with lots of ticks and a high incidence of Lyme disease, talk to your veterinarian about vaccinations for tickborne illnesses as well as combination flea/tick preventatives like once-a-month pills.
How Not to Remove a Tick
While it’s important to get a tick off you or your pet as soon as possible, let’s take a moment to highlight what not to do. The CDC cautions against using “folklore” type methods. Here are those methods you should never use:
- No Heat: Don’t use a match or a blow dryer to heat the tick to remove it.
- No “Smothering”: Don’t coat the tick in nail polish, petroleum jelly, or even soap.
- No Alcohol: Rubbing alcohol doesn’t work either, don’t try to kill it off with rubbing alcohol or other solvents
Not only do the techniques above not work very well, but they do they increase the chances of the very thing you’re trying to avoid: getting infection material from the tick inside your body. Burning or smothering tick is more likely to make the bug bite in more, releasing more disease-carrying saliva.
Let’s take a look at how to safely remove the tick and avoid unnecessary exposure to pathogens.