Tick bites may not hurt much, but they can still pose some serious risks, as ticks often carry an array of harmful bacteria and viruses.
That’s why it’s important to know how to remove and kill ticks if you spot them on your skin.
Although there are many potential methods for tick removal, some are much more effective than others.
This guide will show you how to remove and kill ticks correctly.
What Are Ticks?
Before we dig into the details of how to remove and kill a tick, let’s begin with a look at what ticks actually are.
Many people make the mistake of assuming that ticks are insects. But they’re actually arachnids, similar to spiders.
However, unlike spiders, ticks are also classed as parasites, which means that they rely on a “host” organism to help them survive.
That is why ticks bite people and animals. They have to consume blood in order to survive and grow. For that reason, they tend to hide within wooded or grassy areas, waiting for warm-blooded creatures to pass by.
They then leap onto those creatures and bite down tightly into their flesh, feeding on their blood for several days, unless removed or killed beforehand.
Why Are Tick Bites So Problematic?
With tick bites, it’s not the pain that’s really a problem. Indeed, the bites themselves don’t tend to cause any noticeable pain, and that’s one of the problems. – since they don’t hurt, ticks are often hard to detect.
They can bite someone for several hours, or even a whole day or more before being spotted.
During that time, they have much more of a chance of spreading germs and diseases into the host’s body.
Bacteria, viruses, and even small parasites living within the tick can be passed onto the people they bite!
All of which can lead to a multitude of symptoms and even some serious diseases, with Lyme disease being the one most commonly associated with tick bites.
- Lyme Disease: Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the U.S. today, and it’s the one that people tend to fear most if they get a tick bite. It can result in many symptoms, including rashes, flu symptoms, problems with the brain and nerves, joint pain, heart issues, and so on. Such bites require prompt treatment with antibiotics.
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is one of the deadliest diseases that ticks can spread. The symptoms are similar to the flu or meningitis, including rashes, a fever, headaches, feeling of nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and a lack of appetite. Like Lyme disease, it’s treated with antibiotics.
- Babesiosis: Babesiosis occurs when ticks pass their own parasites – called Babesia – onto their hosts. It can be a serious and even life-threatening condition in certain cases, especially in the elderly or those who already have serious health conditions that could be aggravated by a babesiosis diagnosis.
- Other Illnesses: There are several more diseases and health conditions that ticks can spread, which is why campers and hikers are so strongly encouraged to use tick spray and repellent. Other diseases include anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis, which both cause flu-like symptoms, along with Colorado tick fever, which can cause body aches, tiredness, and vomiting.
How to Remove a Tick the Right Way
As you can see, ticks can cause all sorts of health problems. Studies show that the longer a tick is left in place, the higher the risk of disease transmission.
The risk of Lyme disease, in particular, rises enormously with tick bites lasting longer than 24 hours. That’s why experts recommend removing the tick as soon as possible after it has been spotted.
But removing ticks isn’t as simple as just pulling them out with your fingers. In fact, people are urged to never use their bare hands to remove ticks, as this could cause more germs to spread.
There are also lots of other “home remedies” for tick removal that you might have heard of, like putting nail polish on the tick or burning it with cigarettes. Again, these methods are best avoided!
In reality, there’s only one tried and true method for getting rid of ticks, and that’s the tweezer method:
- Prepare a pair of clean tweezers with small tips that are fine enough to grab hold of the tick tightly.
- Clamp down the end of your tweezers on the tick’s body, trying to get as close to the surface of your skin and the mouth of the tick. Don’t squeeze the tick too tight, as this could crush its body and lead to more bacteria and other germs spreading over your skin.
- Pull the tick up and away from your skin. Use steady pressure, and don’t make the mistake of trying to twist or turn the tick to break it free from your skin. This could cause the body to break away and the mouth section of the tick to stay in place, which can still spread germs.
- If you accidentally pull away only part of the tick, try to use the tweezers to get rid of any leftover parts still in your skin. If you’re not able to succeed, you could visit a doctor’s clinic to see if they can help, or wait for the parts to fall out on their own.
- Once the tick has been removed, use warm, soapy water, rubbing alcohol, or sanitizer to clean the area around the bite.
After getting rid of the tick, it’s also important to monitor your health for the following days and weeks and look for any signs of illness, like a rash or fever.
If you do develop any symptoms, consult with a doctor and tell them about your bite.
Of course, it’s possible that your symptoms have nothing to do with the tick, but it’s still worth letting the doctor know.
They may wish to conduct some tick-related tests to rule out or look for the signs of certain illnesses or infections.
How to Kill a Tick
We’ve covered how to remove a tick, but it’s also important to know how to kill ticks, too.
If you simply remove the tick and then let it go, it could easily bite you again or target someone else nearby. This is why it’s best to kill removed ticks using one of the following methods:
- Tape: One of the best ways to kill ticks is to wrap them tightly in tape. Make sure to cover the tick on all sides with the tape so it can’t get free, and it should die on its own relatively quickly, as it’ll have no way to feed. This is a handy method, since you can preserve the tick’s body and show it to a specialist or doctor to identify it, if you get ill.
- Alcohol: Rubbing alcohol is another proven and effective tick killer. You can soak the tick in alcohol by putting inside a small container. Make sure the container is sealed and keep a close eye on the tick to be sure it’s dead. Note that water isn’t a suitable alternative for alcohol and won’t work at killing ticks.
- Flushing: If you don’t have alcohol or tape to hand and are wondering what to do with a removed tick, another option is to flush it down the toilet. Just carefully use your tweezers or gloved hands to put the tick in the toilet and flush. That will kill the tick, but the downside is that you lose the body, so you won’t be able to identify it later on.
- Tick Killer Spray: There are also products like ticks spray and other commercial tick killers you could consider using to deal with ticks. Such products can be used on ticks that have bitten you and been removed, or loose ticks found on pets, clothing, or out in the wild. Note that the effectiveness levels can vary from product to product, and some contain harmful chemicals.
Knowing how to remove a tick and how to kill a tick is essential if you’re planning any kind of outdoor adventure, from a hike in the woods to a family camping expedition.