According to the CDC, the best way to remove a tick once it’s bitten is with fine-pointed tweezers. The pointy tip allows you to grasp a tick close to its head. You then pull upwards in a slow, steady motion. When done correctly, the tick will come out without regurgitating its body contents into the wound and without its head breaking off.
Keep a Tick Removal Tool with You At All Times!
After being bit by ticks for the umpteenth time, I starting carrying a tick removal tool with me at all times. I personally carry these mini tweezers with me in my wallet and, for hiking, I have these larger pointy tweezers in my first aid kit. There are also many keychain tick removal tools which make it easy to keep a tool with you at all times, though they aren’t as good as pointy tweezers for removing nymph ticks.
Can I Remove a Tick with My Fingers?
Once it has bitten you, removing a tick with your fingers is a very bad idea. You could end up squishing the tick and pushing its body contents into your skin (and thus increasing the likelihood of disease transmission). On top of this, removing a tick increases the likelihood that the head will break off. While this doesn’t increase the likelihood of getting disease, having a tick head stuck in your skin is gross and can cause a lot of redness and irritation.
Because of these reasons, it is often better to wait until you can get a proper tick removal tool instead of removing the tick with your fingers.
But it’s also important to get ticks off of you as soon as possible: the less time they are on you, the less likely it is that the tick will transmit disease. So, if you really can’t get to a tick tool soon, you might try one of the DIY tick tools below for removing a tick without tweezers.
Ways to Remove a Tick without Tweezers
There really aren’t many goods ways to remove ticks without tweezers or tick removal tools. I do NOT recommend any of these methods. However, if you really can’t get pointy tweezers – such as if you are hiking in the middle of nowhere – you can make your own DIY tick tools with these methods.
1. Plastic Drinking Straw with Notch Cut in It
This works best with rigid/firm straws. Most straws are too soft and will bend when you try to pull the tick out. The organge straw in this picture, for example, was really flexible. The pink one worked better in my tests.
To make a tick tool out of a straw:
- Cut the end of a plastic drinking straw at an angle.
- Next cut a V-shaped notch into the longer/bottom side of the angle you just cut.
- Put the notch around the tick so the bottom of the V is over its mouthparts.
- Use a gentle scooping motion to lift the tick out.
2. Plastic Spoon Tool
You can make your own tick removal spoon. Because the plastic is so thick, it doesn’t work as well as the straw method on nymph ticks or ticks which aren’t engorged yet. But, because the plastic is rigid, it holds its shape better than a DIY tool made from a soft straw.
To make the DIY tick spoon:
- Using scissors, cut a V-shaped notch into a plastic spoon.
- Put the notch around the tick so the bottom of the V is over its mouthparts. You may need to press down on your skin to position it properly.
- Use a gentle scooping motion to lift the tick out.
3. DIY Credit Card Tick Removal Tool
You can cut also cut a V-shaped notch in a credit card to make your own extraction tool. However, because credit cards are flat, it doesn’t work as well as a notch cut into curved plastic (such as a straw or spoon). It’s actually not that easy to cut a perfect notch into plastic with scissors. You’ll notice from the picture that I had to do it twice!
4. Thread, Dental Floss or Fishing Line
This method of getting a tick out without tweezers works well on tiny nymph ticks or ones which aren’t fully engorged yet.
To remove a tick with thread:
- Gently tie a loop around the tick.
- Make sure the loop is positioned as low down as possible. You want it around the tick’s mouthparts and not its body.
- Tighten the loop. Be careful that you don’t tighten too much. You don’t want to cut the tick’s body off with the thread.
- Holding both sides of the thread, and pull upwards and slightly outwards in a steady motion.
5. Strand of Hair
If you can’t find any thread or dental floss, I’ve heard that you can use a strand of hair instead. Personally, I’m not sure this would work well with my super-fine hair. It would probably break without getting the tick out. But, if you have thick, strong hair, it might work as well as the dental floss method above.
6. Two Thin, Sturdy Edges
You can take two sturdy edges and use these to grasp the tick and pull it out. Options include credit cards, long fingernails or even two knife blades.
You’ll need to hold the object at an angle so the edges are as close to the tick head as possible. Then you’ll need to lift both objects at the exact same time and speed. You’ll need to have VERY sturdy hands to do this, so I don’t recommend it.
7. Improvised DIY Tick Tweezers
It is actually pretty easy to make your own tweezers. You basically need two objects to use as the sides of the tweezers (such as popsicle sticks or chopsticks), a rubber band to hold them together at one end, and a roll of paper to stick between them.
The problem is that you need pointy tweezers to safely remove a tick. So, you’ll have to attach something thin and pointy to the ends of your improvised tweezers. I used sewing needles but unbent paperclips would also work. It’s really important that the tweezer ends are sturdy and line up well. Otherwise they won’t grasp the tick well. Practice pulling on small objects with your tweezers a few times before trying to remove the tick.
Never Remove a Tick with:
- Nail polish remover
- Essential oils
- Hot matches
All of these methods irritate or attempt to suffocate the tick in hopes that it will come out on its own. While they may get the tick out, they increase the chance that the tick will regurgitate into the wound – thus increasing the chances of disease transmission. Use a tick tool instead!
Do you know of any other SAFE tricks for removing ticks without tweezers? Let us know in the comments section below.