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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : How do I remove a tick?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Robert H. Shmerling, M.D. is associate physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. He has been a practicing rheumatologist for over 20 years at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He is an active teacher in the Internal Medicine Residency Program, serving as the Robinson Firm Chief. He is also a teacher in the Rheumatology Fellowship Program.

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June 16, 2014
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Ticks can transmit a number of disease (including Lyme disease). So it’s important to know how to remove a tick. . If one is attached to your skin, removing it promptly can cut your chances of becoming sick.

There are a number of misconceptions about how to remove a tick. Do NOT use petroleum jelly, nail polish, or rubbing alcohol to “smother” the tick. And do NOT try to burn the tick with a recently lit match.

Here’s how to remove a tick:

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers. If you don’t have tweezers, you can pull the tick out with your fingers. But wear medical gloves or use tissue paper — don’t use your bare hands.
  • Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Avoid squeezing the tick's body.
  • While applying constant pressure and without twisting, pull the tick away from the skin.

Next steps:

  • Wash the bite site.
  • Wash your hands well with soap and water, alcohol or an iodine-containing cleanser. 
  • Put the tick in a dry jar or plastic bag. Then save it in the freezer for later identification if necessary.

If you can't remove an attached tick, call your doctor. 

If you live in a place where Lyme disease is common, antibiotic treatment can prevent disease.  So contact your doctor to discuss this option.

 

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