Most ticks do not carry diseases, and most tick bites do not cause
serious health problems. But it is important to avoid and check for ticks, and to remove a tick as soon as you
find it. Removing the tick completely may help you avoid diseases such as
Lyme disease that the tick may pass on during feeding,
or a skin infection where the tick bit you.
How to avoid tick bites
Learn where ticks and deer that carry ticks are most commonly
found in your community. Avoid those areas if possible.
Cover as much of your body as possible when working or playing
in grassy or wooded areas. Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants
with the legs tucked into your socks. Keep in mind that it is easier to spot
ticks on light-colored clothes.
Clear leaves, brush, tall grasses,
woodpiles, and stone fences from around your house and the edges of your yard
or garden. This may help reduce ticks and the rodents that
the ticks depend on.
Remove plants that attract deer, and use barriers to keep
deer ticks they may carry—out of your yard.
Call your local
landscaping nursery or county extension office to see if your yard can be treated for ticks with nonchemical or environmentally safe methods.
Checking for ticks
When you come in from outdoors, check all over your body for
ticks, including your groin, head, and underarms. Comb your hair with a fine-toothed comb, or have someone check your scalp.
To remove ticks from clothing, put your clothes in a hot dryer or hang them out in the
sun on a hot day for at least 15 minutes. The heat can kill the ticks. Also check for ticks on
any gear you had with you in the woods.
your children daily for ticks, especially during the summer months.
Check your pets for ticks after they've been outdoors. Your pets can carry infected ticks indoors where
they might fall off your pet and attach to you.
How to remove a tick
Use fine-tipped tweezers to
remove a tick. If you don't have tweezers, put on gloves or cover your hands
with tissue paper, then use your fingers. Do not handle the tick with bare
Grab the tick as close to its mouth (the part
that is stuck in your skin) as you can. The body of the tick will be above your
Do not grab the tick around its swollen belly. You could push
infected fluid from the tick into your body if you squeeze it.
Gently pull the tick straight out until its mouth lets go of your
skin. Do not twist the tick. This may break off the tick's body and leave the head in your skin.
tick in a dry jar or ziplock bag and save it in the freezer for later
identification if needed.
After the tick has been removed, wash the area of the
tick bite with a lot of warm water and soap. A mild dishwashing soap, such as
Ivory, works well. Be sure to wash your hands well with soap and water
NOTE: If you can't remove a tick,
call your doctor.
You can use an antibiotic ointment, such as
polymyxin B sulfate (for example, Polysporin) or bacitracin. Put a little bit
of ointment on the wound. The ointment will keep the wound from sticking to a
bandage. If you get a skin rash or itching under the bandage, stop using the
ointment. The rash may mean you had an allergic reaction to the
Some ticks are so small it is hard to see them. This
makes it hard to tell if you have removed the tick's head. If you do not see
any obvious parts of the tick's head where it bit you, assume you have removed
the entire tick, but watch for
symptoms of a skin infection.
If you have a rash, headache, joint pain, fever, or
flu-like symptoms, this could mean you have an illness related to a tick bite.
If you have any of these symptoms, or symptoms of a skin infection, call your
What to avoid
Do not try to:
Smother a tick that is stuck to your skin
with petroleum jelly, nail polish, gasoline, or rubbing
Burn the tick while it is stuck to your skin.
Smothering or burning a tick could make it release
fluid—which could be infected—into your body and increase your chance of
There are some tick-removal devices that you can buy.
If you are active outdoors in areas where there are a lot of ticks, you may
want to consider buying such a device.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.