In the outdoors, I’m not afraid of snakes or bears and definitely not insects. But I’ll admit it: ticks absolutely freak me out. I especially hate removing ticks. I’m always afraid that I’ll accidentally squish the tick with tweezers, causing blood to squirt everywhere. To make my life easier, I figure it’s time to upgrade to a tick removal tool.
How NOT to Remove a Tick
Before we get to the best tick removal tools, let’s talk about how not to remove a tick. Every tick season, I see a lot of videos circulating around which show new “better” ways to remove a tick.
For example, there was that viral video of a woman applying peppermint oil to a latched-on tick. In a matter of seconds, the annoyed tick crawls out of her skin.
While this tick-removal method seems to work, it is actually unsafe and should NEVER be used.
As Dr. Neeta Connally, assistant professor of Biology at Western Connecticut State University and Borreliosis and Associated Disease Awareness UK say, this method can irritate the tick and cause it to salivate.
The saliva means increased risk that disease-causing pathogens will get into your body from the tick. So, it is better to never irritate the tick. Instead, you want to get it off your body as quickly as possible, before it has a chance to regurgitate into your skin.
- Touch the tick with hot match/fire
- Use peppermint oil or any other essential oils
- Apply petroleum jelly
- Submerse the tick in alcohol
- Try to suffocate the tick
- Squeeze the tick’s body
Also Never Twist Ticks
You might have also read that you can grab a tick’s body and “unscrew it.” The idea is that the twisting motion will cause the tick’s jaws to unlatch.
Well, tick’s mouths are not screw-shaped, so unscrewing them isn’t going to work. Rather, ticks have barbs on their mouthparts which allow them to get a damn-good grip on your skin.
Unscrewing a tick just means you’ll pull off its body, leaving the head stuck in your skin. This can result in an infection.
How to Remove a Tick
The CDC says that the best way to remove a tick is to:
- Grab it using fine-tipped tweezers. Flat-tipped tweezers don’t work well for tick removal.
- Grasp as close to the head as possible.
- Pull straight upwards. Do not twist or jerk the tick.
- After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands with alcohol, iodine, or soap and water.
- Dispose of the live tick by soaking it in alcohol or sealing it in a bag and throwing it away. Never crush a live tick with your fingers. This could release pathogens.
If you are really worried that the tick might contain the Lyme’s disease pathogens, then you can take it to your doctor for testing.
The Best Tick Removal Tools
Note that the CDC says that you should always remove a tick by pulling straight upwards in a clean motion.
Unfortunately, you’ll find a lot of tick removal tools that tell you to twist. There’s even one tool called “Tick Twister.” Don’t do this!!!
You’ll also find a lot of tick keys which have V-shaped slots. These do grasp the tick well and can be used for humans. They are especially useful for removing ticks from little kids who won’t sit still. However, you need to make sure you are pulling up and not to the side. As a general rule though, save those tick tools for your dog. It’s best to remove ticks from humans with tweezers!
The CDC recommends using fine-point tweezers as the best method for removing ticks, and these definitely fit the bill.
The tweezers are dual sided. One side has very fine, pointy tips for grasping ticks at the head. I like this tick removal tool because it can also be used for removing tiny splinters, thorns, etc.
The other side of the tool has the V-shaped scoop for removing ticks from pets (or kids who won’t sit still).
- Best For: People who also have pets.
- Cost: $9.14 – Buy Here
2. Tick Nipper
This tick removal tool has a slot that you use to grab the tick. Just pull upwards to remove the tick, head and all. The scoop will catch the tick, so you don’t risk dropping it.
The good thing about this tool is that it allows you to securely grasp the tick at the right spot without risk of cutting off the head by mistake. It also has a built-in magnifying glass which you can use to look for ticks on your body or make sure you got all of the tick out.
- Best For: People with unsteady hands.
- Cost: $8.35 – Buy Here
Yes, these tweezers do seem a bit cheesy. However, they are actually really useful to have on the trail. The pointy tip fits the CDC recommendations for grasping the tick at its head. There is a little LED light that shines where you are tweezing, plus a magnifying glass to better see what you are doing.
Even though they are likely made in China, the tweezers do hold up well. They are great for ticks, splinters, cleaning wounds, and other times you need detailed tweezing work.
- Best For: People who appreciate extra light and magnification when removing ticks.
- Cost: $11.00 – Buy Here
These tweezers are marketed as a beauty product for removing ingrown hairs. But they are also perfect as a tick removal tool. They are really well made and the pointy ends line up perfectly. They even come with a lifetime warranty.
- Best For: People who want a damn good pair of tweezers for beauty, splinters, ticks, or whatever life throws at them.
- Cost: $7.35 – Buy Here
What If the Head Gets Stuck in the Skin?
If you use the tick removal tool properly, the head should come out of the bite point. However, even when pulled out properly, the head can still get stuck in your skin. This can cause an infection – but this isn’t Lyme’s disease infection.
Try to remove the tick head with tweezers. If you are unable to do so, just leave it alone (I know it is gross, but just do it). The tick head will eventually come out on its own.
If you really want to get the head out, then sterilize a safety pin (you’ve got one in your camping first aid kit, right?). Dig it out like you would a splinter.
Keep a Watch for Lyme’s Disease
In 70-80% of cases of Lyme’s disease, people will develop a bullseye rash on the site of the tick bite. The rash usually occurs an average of 7 days after the bite, but can be as soon as 3 days or as late as 30 days. It is important that you pay attention to this sign so you can get treatment right away. You can read more about the signs and symptoms of Lyme’s disease here.