Safe tick repellent & the RIGHT WAY to remove a tick

In case you missed the bulletin, the news flash, or the sky-writing, I’m afraid of ticks.
Everybody’s sick of hearing about it.
So I thought I’d talk about it s’more. Yay!
Since moving to the country in 2013 and kick-starting my our dreams of homestead-livin’ I’ve had to contend with a few difficult realities:
One: the internet is slow.
Two: the internet is slow.
Three: there are ticks.
Update: this post was written in 2013. It’s now 2017. In the last few years, we’ve had great success balancing the ecosystem of our homestead (aka: reducing ticks and “bad bugs” and increasing the good ones) using pasture-raised chickens, turkeys, guineas and even ducks. But we don’t like to take chances, AND the occasional tick still shows up, so this post still matters!
This has been an adventure, to say the least. While I love getting dirty, muck-covered and dusty, and I don’t mind spiders, flies or most creepy-crawlies, ticks are the evil-est of all evils.
My fear is slightly humorous given my affinity for Vampire fiction.
I know I’ve got to get used to them. My awesomely amazing friend Diana of the INCREDIBLE Homegrown Paleo Cookbook lives on a working farm, and she and her husband Andrew are two people I can always trust to gently let me know that I’m being an idiot and need to grow a pair, stat.
Love those guys.
But I still want a safe, non-DEET tick repellant that works amazingly well (essential oils, even the “therapeutic grade” ones, have never once worked reliably)…
…One that doesn’t come with a warning that it will wipe out fish populations and cause birth defects and such. (Hello, Permethrin). Bonus if it works for dogs, too.
Enter Cedarcide! I was SO excited to discover that these products ACTUALLY WORK. We’ve tried most of their products, but Tick Shield is our go-to.
I’m not affiliated with the brand – although I probably should be – I just use and love it that much.
It’s safe for me, husband, toddler, and dogs.
It makes me smell like a cedar closet, but it rinses off. And it also works on other bugs. I seriously can’t recommend it highly enough. We spritz it on our feet every time we go outside, and often around any spots that ticks like to hide (behind the ears, for example).
BUT. If you discover a tick that’s already embedded, it’s a different story.
So now let’s talk about tick REMOVAL.
*Shudders.* This means the removal of ticks that are

  1. already ON your body (or your pooch) but not embedded or
  2. already embedded (*freaks out*) (*freaks out twice*)

For ticks that are already on your body or your pooch BUT NOT EMBEDDED, the solution is simple:

Keep a roll of clear packing tape in your fanny pack.
Wait, backing up: Never leave home without your fanny pack. NASCAR fanny packs are preferable. (Obviously.)

Use the tape to “grab” the creepy-crawling tick from off your skin or clothes and seal it off WITHOUT having to touch it with your bare hands.
Torture and shame the tick at will for its horrifying lifestyle choices. (Just kidding.) (Kind of.)

Grabbing the tick this way means that you can visually evaluate it for type, then keep it for your veterinarian or doctor to evaluate or test for disease if you live in particularly tick-ridden areas where tick-borne diseases are common.
Update: Corah, a facebook reader, had this to say: “One important thing as well is to save the tick! Put it in a plastic bag with some grass and a moist cotton ball. Most state run universities have what’s called a medical entomology department where you can send the tick to be tested. They WANT you to send it in!”

Now, with regards to ticks that are already EMBEDDED in your body:

Sadly, whenever I share this post, I get HEATED responses from people who are downright angry that I’d suggest they have been taking bad advice on tick removal for years, or that their friends, favorite websites, or doctor could have given them bad information.
I get it. I don’t like to be wrong either.
If you “do differently” and you’ve got some wisdom to share, go for it in the comments. But whatever you do, all I ask it that you keep it civil, read what I have to say, and decide whether it gets a thumbs-up from your common sense radar. I won’t approve your comment if you’re being a jerk. If you’ve done differently, you’re not being accused of anything here. Please don’t take offense.
When it comes to the information I’m sharing, you have NOTHING to lose by trying it. These instructions DO reflect the research of experts in the growing community of people suffering from tick-borne disease. Even the CDC agrees with me here, calling the bad removal strategies I list below “folklore remedies.”  (See resources at the end of this post.)
Bottom line is, the recommendations I list below that I hear all too often could be downright DANGEROUS because they actually might ENABLE the potential spreading of tick-borne disease.

  • NEVER put lard, coconut oil, petroleum jelly, soap, hydrogen peroxide or any other salve, liquid or solution or item on the tick to make it “back out on its own.”
  • NEVER burn its ticky tush with a match so it will “back out on its own” (summary of why)
  • NEVER DO ANY OTHER THING INTENDED TO MAKE THE TICK BACK OUT ON ITS OWN. Don’t tickle it, don’t flick it, don’t bargain with it, don’t stroke it with a goosefeather.

Sure, it sounds good to have a tick back out on its own, but it’s starting to become evident that might be a HUGE mistake.
Why? Because my sources suggest that ANY TIME a tick backs out – whether gently, of its own volition OR at your urging or due to suffocation or anything you’ve rubbed into its little behind, the tick is likely to purge the potentially disease-containing contents of its body into your bloodstream on its way out.
The act of “backing out” might as well mean “dumping out.” And with the reports of tick-borne diseases seeming to increase every year, it’s important to do everything you can to PREVENT the dumping.
Summary: getting a tick to “back out on its own” is likely to be a MISTAKE.
We want to get the WHOLE thing out, I get it. But once a tick is embedded, the best way to safely remove it with the LOWEST chance of regurgitation/dumping is to PULL the whole darn thing out in one swift motion before the tick knows what’s coming.
The tick removal tools I recommend, when used properly, give you the best chance of removing the whole thing WITHOUT the risk of regurgitation.
Don’t buy the whole “regurgitation” argument? That’s fine. Do it your way. But if it sounds plausible and my sources resonate with you, try it this way. It’s no more labor-intensive, expensive, or time-consuming.

Safe removal tools

Pointy-edged tweezers are the most common tool (don’t use the flat-edged kind; use the pointy-tip or angled-tip kind, like these). I find these get all bumbly-fumbly, however, and I always seem to pull a tick off messily and incompletely when I use them.
The absolute best solution I’ve found for myself is the Ticked Off tick removal spoon. Many folks also like the Tick Key. They work on people and pets.
The Ticked Off contraption can stay on your keychain. We have one on each. It pulls the WHOLE tick off quick and clean, every time.

After removal, of course, cleanse the spot well, and if you’re concerned about Lyme or disease transmission, call your healthcare practitioner.
To help ensure ticks don’t get super-comfy and deeply embedded before you have a chance to pull them (increasing the risk of disease transmission), check yourself and your pets FREQUENTLY. And use these tips.
UPDATE: Jenna, a facebook reader, let me know that when it comes to the TEENY-TINY ticks like Deer ticks (we mostly have larger dog ticks and lone star ticks), “tick tweezers are a godsend.” Find special tick tweezers here.
Jenna said: “…[for deer ticks] his thing is the best thing on the market. Our pediatrician recommended it to us after we had tons of ticks on our kids last year. … This one is spring loaded so it holds the tick but not tight enough to squeeze it or break it if my kid moves suddenly … Then you just twist and it takes the tick right off. Then you stick it in tape. Done.”
Of course, in some circumstances, the tick is so deeply embedded that you can’t yank the whole thing out swiftly or easily and you end up decapitating it. GOOD NEWS: this is still probably better than any “back out on its own” strategies.
Why? Because the tick stores its bubbling cauldron of disease IN ITS BODY. Severing its head from said cauldron severs the head/body connection and thus its chances of regurgitating, and that’s better than making it “back out,” allowing it to dispense its ‘gurge on the way out.
If you end up severing the tick in your attempts to remove it, and the tick’s head is still embedded despite your best efforts using the contraptions I list below, your body’s natural process of inflammation should work the head out. But keep an eye on it, and contact your healthcare practitioner to be sure.
You can still send the body in for testing so you know what you’re dealing with, and see your healthcare practitioner for a good strategy from there, including having the tick AND yourself tested and treated preventatively.
Leave a comment below if you have knowledge to share. Please be respectful!
Check out these resources on tick removal and tick-borne disease:
Dr. Lo Radio podcast on The Lyme Diet
Advanced topics in Lyme Disease
International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society
Thanks for reading!

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126 Responses

  1. THANK YOU for posting this. I’ve been really dismayed to see how many people offer up the suffocation method like its safe.
    I will say that I’ve used the tick key a few times on my kids, and it works well enough as long as its on a flat plane of body. (Say, on the back of the neck at the hair line.) But frequently I resort to the good old metal tweezers. I might give that spoon a try. It seems like it needs less space to maneuver than the key.
    My kids seem to be prone to getting the little ticky bastards on the backs of their ears – in spite of nightly tick checks. I don’t even know what that’s about!

    1. Thanks you for reading Heather! And eek – I think I’ve neglected the back-of-the-ear check. Thanks for the reminder!

    2. thanks for the info on the little tools to use. Looks good. When living in Alabama in the 70s we diligently groomed our Irish
      Setter nightly looking for and finding ticks. My tip is that we kept a glass jar of rubbing alcohol to drop them in as we removed them which assured us they would perish. Disgusting looking collection as we wanted to leave them there long enough to kill and that did the trick.
      I now live in the Pacific NW and don’t see ticks regularly. Am I just lucky or do we not have them in this area W of the mountains? I suspect we need to be on the lookout E. of the Cascades.

      1. I’ve heard they’re pretty much anywhere and everywhere, BUT I’ve noticed that as we’ve worked to balance the ecosystem on our land we see less and less of them. Perhaps in a balanced ecosystem their natural predators keep their numbers in check. The PNW has it goin’ on!

    1. My husband was brought up also by the suffocation method. Myself coming from a big city, born & raised, took the more active approach when I was 1st put in that situation. After we trecked through some very tall grass he stopped me & said we need to check for ticks. He continued to show me how look on ourselves & each other & then there was the lil sucker crawling up my pant leg! I acted on pure reflex & knocked the sucker off! I did have to remove them from my dog before & always used a tweezers or hemostats to get a hold of it. Only time we used fire was when the tick was put in a ashtray & we would kill it that way bcuz they’re not easy to just crush.

  2. I think I can beat your country-induced-slow-internet: last year mine went down for TWO WEEKS. I am not going to shame myself by admitting how I reacted 😛
    Also, I’m actually afraid of your ticks *shudder, shudder, almost-gag*

    1. We’re picking up some baby guineas next week! We tried “adopting” full-grown guineas when we moved here a few months back, but we couldn’t get them to “learn” their new home/coop so they ended up running away, never to be seen again! I have high hopes for training the baby guineas where “home” is so they stick around. The only bummer is it’ll be awhile before they’re ready to eat ticks! Any advice on guinea raising is welcome 🙂

      1. Guineas are very easy to raise. They roost at dusk and we just make sure the door to their pen get shut. We have had a couple for a long time. The babies should be ready to start to forage in just a couple if months.

        1. We have guineas now (this post was written a year ago) and they are by far my favorite animals we’ve got on the homestead!

  3. I thought I was going to pass out from the mere mention of ticks. Ticks love me – I’m a literal tick magnet. Nasty, horrible gross beyond belief creatures. Thanks for the info, I’m getting one of those gizmos before our next hike.
    I may need smelling salts now (or a glass of wine at the very least).

  4. interesting. gross. totally wonderful that you’re addressing this topic (have you seen under our skin?).
    word on the street is that lyme disease (plus coinfections) is spreading. ticks are only one vector, but they seem like a biggie. and you know, the spreading. oi.
    dr. lauren noel did a podcast a while back on lyme disease diet– sounded sorta paleo/wapf with the addition of infection-controlling botanicals.
    have you looked into internal use of neem? i believe when applied internally, the leaf is used as opposed to the seed, which is used to produce neem oil. maybe internal neem will make you and family less appetizing??
    thanks for the update!
    seems like behind the ears is n– lots of bloodflow, thin skin.

    1. Researching internal neem is on my list, just because most traditional outlets recommend against it 😉 I love being contrary…
      I HAVE seen Under Our Skin. Chilling! I’m going to add the podcast to this post, thank you!

        1. Hi Liz… just read your tick info.
          I know that Youngevitys Ancient Legacy Medicinal oils are THE BEST. The Tea Tree oil is a must for a tick bite on people or animals. This Tea Tree oil can be applied (NEAT) which means directly on the skin without a carrier oil. Apply as soon as you notice the bite and continue intensive treatment of bite by reapplying frequently. Australian researchers have preformed many studies proving the efficacy of Tea Tree’s ability in fighting bacterial infections. Tea Tree, unlike antibiotics, does not kill indiscriminately but, can identify and kill the destructive bacteria while leaving the friendly bacteria we need to stay healthy. Tea tree also stimulates the immune system to help you stay healthy. it is non-toxic, non irritant, possibly sensitizing in some people.
          Alexandria Brighton in her book called “A Collection of Aromatherapy Recipes: From the Still Room” says this…
          ” If your dog has a tick attached to its skin, apply Tea Tree to the tick until saturated. The tick will be able to be removed in just a minute or two. I am not sure how that fits with your discussion of “dumping” or regurgitating nasty stuff into the host? Interesting… seems like yes you need to remove it quickly…love the tape idea..but just another take….it was very cool the Tea tree can tell which is the good and bad bacteria….
          blessings Penny Tyler xxx-xxx-xxxx

          1. We lived in New England and I used Tea Tree Oil after removing the tick. It is antibacterial and the theory is it kills the bacteria left behind from the tick. I never used it prior to removing because of the regurgitating theory. I dumped them in a small dish of tea tree to kill them instantly after removal.

  5. We had an ER doctor who cut a two-inch diameter circle out of the side of a soda can. He then cut a narrow pie wedge into it and slid it right up under the tick and lifted. Amazing! I have used it several times on my other kids and even a friend’s daughter. And packing tape is the way to go, definitely! We like to taunt the ticks, too!

    1. Good idea! I am an a Emergency Veterinarian & really enjoyed this post!! I agree- people are far too concerned about leaving the ticks head in, and not concerned enough about preventing the purging of the stomach contents. One additional comment- never douse your dog with alcohol, & THEN decide to try the “burning the tick” method! You WILL light your dog on fire!!! (Yes, we have seen this done not once, but TWICE!! Different patients. Sigh….)

  6. Oh no! You are right that the ‘natural’ ways are not safe, but PLEASE do not cut off it’s head. You need to remove it very slowly, keeping it in tact. The trauma of trying to decapitate it can also cause purging into your body. I have Lyme Disease. PLEASE be careful! You do not want this disease. I hope you will continue to research because the proper way is to remove it very slowly, without squeezing until the entire tick comes out.
    Here is a great pic of the removal:
    I also include a video on how to do it on my blog:
    More great info:
    Use tweezers or forceps.
    Grasp the tick mouthparts close to the skin.
    Avoid squeezing the tick which may spread infected body fluids.
    Pull the tick straight out. Do not twist. Do not attempt to burn the tick.
    Save the tick (you may want to have it tested for B. burgdorferi or other infectious agents)
    Wash your hands with soap and water.
    Apply antiseptic to bite site.

    Thank you for posting this information. I was always told to do the back out methods! Now I’m motivated to get one of those tick scooper things JUST IN CASE!

  8. Thanks for sharing my thoughts Liz! As I said on FB, I had undiagnosed Lyme Disease for 16 years (misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia). I had no idea a little ole bug bite could do such terrible things to a person until last October when I was diagnosed.
    Knowing what to look for as far as symptoms go for Lyme is crucial. While studies show that Lyme spirochetes are only released after they have been embedded for 24 hours, the cases of people catching Lyme from a tick barely hanging on are many. I personally don’t even remember what bit me or picking it off, just that I had been bitten. And not getting a bullseye rash is not 100% indicative that you didn’t contract Lyme. I did not have a bullseye, but a widespread blotchy rash.
    I started a series on my blog this week discussing facts and myths about Lyme Disease… hope you’ll check it out.

  9. Omigosh!!!! I had a big ol’ dog tick embedded under my right under my poor pups EYE, it was HORRIFFIC just last week. I was researching the poop out of the interwebs trying to find the best way to get it off. I think we did the best way… things look ok, but I think we are going to invest in the tick spoon thingy because on our land seems like they pop in often *shivers and squirms* Thanks for the post, its THE best and most detailed I have read!!

  10. I was given a way by a vet in CA: use a finger to wiggle the tick back and forth, back and forth, for several seconds, maybe up to 15, and the tick seems to get dizzy and fall off. However, that having been said, I wonder now if this might be making them revulse their innards, as cautioned in the article. I must check this aspect, as we get a lot of ticks on our mutts, even though we treat them.

  11. My grandfather always put brewer’s yeast on his dog’s food and took brewers yeast pills himself. His dogs were all outdoor dogs in south Alabama. They hardly had a tick or a flea on them and he was never bothered by mosquitoes. My dogs now have chew-able brewers yeast tablets that I get from the pet store. They have had these since they were puppies and I’m not sure either of them even know what a flea or a tick is. I should probably get back into the habit of taking my own so I can avoid becoming dinner too.

  12. We don’t have ticks where I live, however, when we came home from visiting family in Nova Scotia last summer I found a tick behind the ear of my 4 year old daughter–Ewwww!!! Not Cool! Freaked me out. My husband who grew up in NS took one look, said it was embedded to far and off we went to the ER were the doctor used needle nose forceps and pulled the thing off–and then gave it BACK TO ME to send out for testing–like I wanted it back! NOT! Anyways, it all came back clear, but still–Ewwww! lol

  13. THANK YOU for this great post! People need to know this stuff. I have Lyme disease (bitten the day I delivered our 5th child) and have been told by three top-leading Lyme physicians that I’m in the top 5% of worst cases. Knowing how important it is for the tick to not be allowed to ‘spill its guts’ as you remove it is very important. My tick was carrying 3 co-infections as well – as many do not carry just one disease. What’s also helpful to know is that ticks do not like vinegar. So spraying your pet or yourself with a water and vinegar concoction (some adding baking soda, salt, or essential oils) when you go outside is an excellent preventive measure. And simply spreading some Borax (or a mix with it as an ingredient) on your carpet and then vacuuming it up 15min later usually kills the ticks and tick babies in your home or on your pet. One mama tick can lay 3000-5000 eggs so prevention is key! Also, if bitten (and don ‘t forget to look in the belly button – especially babies in diapers) , please do take the tick in for inspection. If it is a deer tick – if one goes on a round of antibiotics within 36hrs of being bitten (and I’m not an advocate of drugs but this is the only method I know of proven to be effective at this time), they will not develop Lyme. 13 years and 3.8million dollars later and still counting, a move for my entire family 1./2 way across the country, and needing to file bankruptcy as a result – I know this disease is both deadly and devastating. Thanks again for shining the “Lyme-light” on ticks!

  14. Wow. I had a tick in my scalp years ago when I was 14 (I’m 44 now) and my parents used the vaseline/back-out method. (Worst feeling ever, by the way, a tick crawling out of your head!) And I was never checked by a doctor nor was my tick tested. Guess I should be thankful I’m alive.

    1. You must have the magical anti-tick regurg antidote (I hear it looks much like glitter!) running through your veins. 😉

  15. Can you do a post on neem oil? I’m just now starting to read about the benefits, but I’m also confused as to when and by how much it should be diluted. Thanks!

  16. Y’all are going to think I’m weird, but I LOVE picking off ticks. Don’t ask why, all I can say is I think it’s fun. Suffocating them isn’t nearly as fun, so I’ve never had to worry about the problems with that.

  17. My grandparents and mom use to just yank them out without a second thought! I’ve not had a tick in years, but I’m homesteading too and surrounding by trees and deer, so thanks for the tips.

  18. Yes, this is super helpful (then again, you always are)! I, too, just moved to Tick Central and am getting reacquainted with tick removal and prevention. I have been hiking in my vibram fivefingers and really want to know what people do to keep the ticks out from between their toes. I’ve considered gaiters, premethrin, and white leggings (kidding! …kind of). What do you do? What do you suggest?

  19. Thanks so much for the tips Liz! I’ve grown up in Arkansas and currently live in the mountains with ticks and chiggers and all other sorts of creatures.
    I know that reading about all of the diseases ticks can carry is pretty terrifying (plus ticks are just gross) but for the people around living with them is just second nature.
    It’s great to have chickens to eat the ticks, use natural repellent and to properly remove the tick. I know some people will use heavy duty oral medication on their dogs that repel and kill ticks, but I don’t b/c I worry how that’s affecting my pups health.
    But sometimes we’ll be outside and we’ll get a tick, or 2 or a bunch of seed ticks (have fun googleing that one!) and it’s not practical to grab a tool or run inside for a sec. We just pull them off, firmly (without crushing them), and without detaching the body from the head. For us, pulling a tick off is like swatting away a fly; annoying, kind of gross, but apart of life in nature.

  20. Thank you for this post! We just moved to the middle of Tickville, and they seriously freak me out. We didn’t really have ticks where I grew up, but my husband and I just moved halfway across Canada and bought a little farm in a tick hotbed. Eek!

  21. Ticks are like lice and seem to gravitate to hairline, neck & behind the ears. Don’t forget to check kids and yourself there!

    1. I’ve pulled ticks off my inner wrist and lower arms…don’t just concentrate on obvious places. Do whole-body tick checks every day, even if you haven’t been outside.

  22. I have pulled ticks off of me that were embedded with tweezers, removing the whole tick, but it left a huge place on my leg that hurt and left a raised place on my leg for weeks and still have a place on my leg. I have used the liquid soap on a cotton ball method, and within seconds the tick came out and you could not even tell where the tick was. So I really have to disagree with the just pulling it out strategy.

  23. I like to use needle nosed pliers cause you can grab them right up by the skin and pull the whole thing out in one swift motion!

  24. My gosh, I can’t even begin to count the hundreds of ticks I pulled off of my dogs when I was a kid on the farm. That was back before anyone had heard of Lyme disease. Just pick ’em off and step on so they squish.

  25. I have used Ticked Off spoons for years down here in Costa Rica on both my horses and dogs. It’s the absolute best. Listen Most Woosy Girl, if you saw the ticks we have here — and I’m talking hundreds if not thousands grouped together in a 2″ square patch of skin so it looks like a weird knobby scab — you would never sleep again. With Ticked Off, I just scoop through the group, grab bunches of them at once, and simply drop them into a wide mouth jar of tick poison. After a couple of years with 9 horses, I had NO TICKS on my farm. Amazing but true. Love your article BTW!

  26. Thank you for sharing this. I’m forwarding it to my in-laws in southeast Kansas and central Oklahoma. Last summer we were all trying to pull ticks off kids and no one knew how to do it. I googled it and came up with the suffocation methods. And of course the heads were left behind anyway.
    We’re in Texas though and mosquitoes and West Nile are more of a problem (since we’re in an urban, non-wooded area most of the time) than ticks. Is neem oil a good thing to apply after mosquito bites (not so much to prevent West Nile but to help the bites heal and to keep from scratching as much)?

    1. I’m not entirely sure about neem oil and mosquito bites! I will have to look into that. I really love the neem extract-based repellents I’ve used, as they seem to really heal the skin as well.

  27. Getting a tick is like one of my biggest fears. I’ve never had it but I am terrified. So this helps a lot! I’ll have to invest in one of these spoons when I go camping this year. Whew. I can’t wait for the next post!!

  28. One preventative measure is to wear long socks and tuck your jeans into them. I spent the first 65 years of life on a farm so I understand ticks! Get a fine tooth comb and do a thorough job of going through your hair when you come in the house is a good idea. We really need a good repellent and it needs to be used diligently.

  29. This is such an awesome post — thank you! We have ticks and vipers and scorpions, but the ticks freak me out the most. I didn’t even make the vampire connection, so thanks for that. Our chickens have helped (and they eat scorpions – what awesome allies), and we are hatching guinea fowl now too (heard they attack snakes, so that would kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. Inappropriate expression to use for a bird, maybe?) Anyway, I will have tape and ticked off in my arsenal from here on out.

  30. Ticked Off spoon is excellent. One thing better than tweezers, and still fairly common are needle-nose pliers. I think they’re better than tweezers because you can get straight to the head without squeezing the tick’s swollen body.
    Now that I think about it, you could probably also use scissors, slightly opened, to get down the head on either side and pry it up. Or worst case cut off its head. Doesn’t the split in the Ticked Off spoon look like slightly open scissors?
    Every time I’ve pulled on a tick (pliers or Ticked Off spoon) I’ve pulled fairly hard until something looks like it will break, then hold it for a few seconds. That seems to give it just a enough time for the tick’s head to “rip” out of the skin cleanly (eww, but not really). Thanks!

    1. Never thought of using needle nose pliers! Thanks Michael! Yep, the gap in the ticked off spoon is a little scissor-like, but not sharp enough to slice.

  31. Hi Liz. I was reading your Tick post . Good info . I have been bitten by tiny Ticks twice . I have Lyme disease 2 x . Here’s the deal . It used to be we thought just tiny ticks on Deer . Now birds , squirrels , dogs , cats .. Are carriers . The Lyme tick is a spyrochete . This means that when it attaches itself to your body you may never see it . It could look like a freckle It has a spiral injection process that anestisies the bite site . Then the virus hoes into your cell and it hides ( hence stealth virus) then it dies the same thing in reverse . Bad ass little monster to be taken seriously . Keep living your life to the fullest . But if you sit by a bush with shorts on . Do a serious body scan . If you have a swim suit on . . Check your butt and inside your legs and neck , underarms .. Take a shower . Have a friend or family member check you too in case you miss it behind you . Sounds like a drag .. The Alternative is a life with Lyme disease that is now transmitted w/ co enzyme infections . This is not something that goes away , but is always latent in your cells forever like AIDS . Yes , folks ,… I’m trying to scare you . This is the number 1 Vector born ( insect) disease in the world . And it could rock yours . Please please protect yourselves & if hiking tuck your dicks into your pant legs for added protection . Stay safe and healthy . Don’t be scared … Be pro active ad educated 🙂

  32. I didnt take the time to read the comments, so please forgive me if I repeat some information…I H.A.T.E. tixks as well. They are nasty little things and dont need to be on planet earth. A while back, I did some research and found that ticks can hold their breath up to three days (information may bot be spot on accurate, its been awhile). Therefore, if you flush em – like my family use to do – there is a good chance, they will survive. Instead, but them into some rubbi g alcohol…this will kill them insistently!! Oh, and when pulling out a tick, do not use a twisting motion…they head is bound to fall off if you do. Pull streight out to keep the ticks head on the body!

  33. I have only run into ticks once but it was very scary. Was fishing with my buddy and went to shore from the lake where we were fishing to explore an old trail which had long grass. When we returned to our boat and were about to return to fishing we saw hundreds of these things on our clothes and other places on the boat. This was all new to us, but we did realize that they were ticks and how hazardous it can be to remove them. They were on our clothes and some on our bodies. Not having a clue as to how to safely remove them, we just left the lake, loaded up our boat and headed home. At home I filled up the bathtub and soaked in the tub, several ticks came out and were seen in the water. I think I just flushed the water and ticks down the drain. Whether this was an advisable procedure or not I do not know but neither of us had and bad after effects. I presume we should have collected some specimens for testing but we were just happy to get rid of them at the time.

  34. Gag. Now I itch and can’t sleep. I am glad to know how to properly remove a tick. And vow to never read your blog at night time ever again.

  35. Hi,
    For your Australian followers I would like to explain that Ozzie ticks are different. They have really nasty toxins and the up to date advice is to remove them by freezing.This is done with the same liquid nitrogen used to freeze warts off that you can buy from the chemist over the counter. @Mozziebites on twitter has lots more information if you find yourselves in the Ozzie bush.Here in New Zealand we are lucky because the ticks are harmless and at the moment they are preparing for the ski season.

  36. Ticks are terrible around here this year. Our natural repellent that usually was pretty effective was not at all, and we got multiple ticks a day until I finally just bought the off. Didn’t send any in for identification though, we just treated the spots and watch carefully for signs of illness. Guess I’ll save them in the future, but sending in every one you find if you live in an area where you are exposed daily seems a bit of overkill to me….

  37. I used Prid drawing salve on my son when the head of a teeny tick got stuck after removal. It came out in a few hours. I love that stuff!

    1. Jen, I’m just now familiarizing myself with drawing salves. I’m learning more, and even experimented with one recently. It worked wonders – I’m a believer!

  38. I’ve always been told never to just pull out the tick and risk severing the head, but rather to grab gently with tweezers or fingers and turn/twist the tick COUNTER-CLOCKWISE. this has worked for us consistently. If you live near woods that harbor them they will live in your grass too. My parents have free roaming guinea fowl who eat them and have greatly reduced the tick population in their yard!

    1. I think the need to sever is pretty rare. There were a few ticks on my dog last year that were so deeply embedded that we couldn’t get it out no matter how hard we tried without some severing action. We’ve actually got 14 guineas, 10 chickens and 5 ducks now. (This post was written last year, and since then, we have far less of a problem! When this post was written our birds were just babies and couldn’t do much to help.)

  39. A good natural preventive measure since you’re homesteading is to keep a flock of guinea fowl. Ticks are like popcorn to them, plus you can eat the guineas in due season.

    1. Thanks Randal! We’ve actually got 14 guineas, 10 chickens and 5 ducks now. (This post was written last year, and since then, we have far less of a problem! When this post was written our birds were just babies and couldn’t do much to help.)

  40. TREAT EVERY TICK BITE AS POTENTIAL LYME DISEASE EVERY TIME! Yes, this may mean being on treatment the entire summer unless you get serious about tick bite PREVENTION. If you get bitten, and if you get infected (symptomatic), then the standard CDC-recommended treatment of 3 weeks of antibiotics may not be effective in eradicating all the bacteria, and you may be in for a looooonnnggg treatment period (like months or years, so listen up). The BEST time to ensure you will NOT spend the next year or so taking medicine for Lyme disease is to get treatment when you find the tick attached (antibiotics, natural, whatever, just make sure it’s EFFECTIVE – do your research!). Any doctor who tells you to wait-and-see should have their license reviewed by their state medical board. Just google Virginia Lyme Disease Task Force Recommendations….TREAT EVERY TICK BITE, EVERY TIME!! (And do DAILY tick checks year-round – YES, even in the winter.)

  41. I’ve used clove oil on bite spots too, it’s an anti spirochete and anti biotic agent. Also, having had a bad tick bite, drinking cats claw tea and eating garlic was a great way to prevent an infection from spreading….or even starting.

  42. I realize this post was all about proper tick removal, but my brain just sort of stopped at “who else loves the vampire diaries?” I’m obsessed. I think I would much prefer a Damon bite to the jugular than a tick in the tush…just sayin’. Anyway, your post was really informative! I’ve lived in the south most of my life so I was aware of the correct way, but SO MANY PEOPLE aren’t. Even some of my family members are like “pour peroxide on it” and then they think I’m crazy when I jump over my kids like I’m shielding them from a bullet wound. I’ll be sharing this! 🙂

  43. I’m an old ER doctor. Agree with main thrust of information above. One addition–when pulling out the little bugger, try to get as close to skin as you can (not entirely the best thing to leave head in) AND do pull and twist with a little counter-clock wise motion. Their mouth parts have a bit of a clockwise orientation, so that works better than straight out.

  44. A while back (actually about 30 yrs ago), my son & I trudged through brush to a great fishing hole. We managed to catch a few eating size walleyes, but once we got back home, we checked and found about 80-100 ticks on each of us. Not joking!!! It was a process but we got everyone of them off by the pull off fast method. Checking the seats of the pickup, I found another 50 or so that hitched a ride or managed to escape us. There was a little bonfire and a lot of crackling. The fishing hole became known as tickhole. No health problems from that episode, unless you call aging & graying symptoms.

  45. Ha! I hate ticks with a passion. They are the one thing that really creeps me out. Thanks for the excellent information. I also love the Vampire Diaries, but I wouldn’t let one of them feast on me either. LOL

  46. Don’t know if anyone already posted this but since you’re homesteading… Get some chickens!! And let them roam freely. Forget the rooster cuz he might start leading them off the property and/or away from the house. Chickens love eating ticks. In a little while you may find your tick problem has been all gobbled up.

    1. Hi Brian! We’ve got 14 guineas, 10 chickens and ducks now. (This post was written last year, and since then, we have far less of a problem! When this post was written our birds were just babies.)

  47. So this wont help you get ticks off. But will stop them from ever biting so that’s better in my book. Henna (yes as in the temporary tattoo stuff) is poisonous to eat. When put on our skin though it’s just fine. Humans are 1000 time bigger then would matter. But the little crawly bitey critters aren’t, and they know it. They will run the other way as soon as they get a whiff of you.
    So basically what I’m saying is put a 2inch x 2inch patch of henna anywhere and you’re bug free for a month. Works on Mosquitoes, Ticks, bed bugs and you get some cool art every month.
    Handy tip.

    1. Very interesting, Russty! I wonder if the fact that I use henna to dye my hair has made me less attractive to ticks this year?

  48. LOVED the article! I had a tick last year that my Mother-in-Law had me put peppermint oil on it. It was on my upper thigh… don’t ever put that oil that close go sensitive parts (you can’t take enough showers!) And loved all your humor! I hate all things bugs but I freaking LOVE Vampire Diaries and balled my eyes out at the season 5 finale! Thanks for the great read! 🙂

  49. I like the Tick Twister.
    I have been using this for several years now on our two cats. One of our cats seems to constantly come home with dog and deer ticks, mainly in the fall. Don’t know where he goes to get them (I’ve never gotten any on myself anywhere on my property) but I know I can quickly remove them with the Tick Twister. I check each one and and it has always removed the whole tick. In many years of use it has never left the head of the tick imbedded.

  50. I concur with the guinea fowl. A flock of ten has kept our 10 acre country home site tick free for several years. They will also chase off snakes. They are quite noisy but this makes them great watch animals. They get along fine with chickens.

    1. We’ve got a flock of 14 guineas, plus chickens and ducks now! (This post was written last year, before our guineas were old enough to make much of a difference). We see far fewer ticks now! It’s fantastic.

  51. Hi! My dog walker shared her trick with me and I thought I should share as it worked for me like a hot damn. My doggy got his first tick the other day and she told me if you get one that you grab the ticks body (this one had a big ass), and twist it counter clockwise. It forced the tick to let go. It really worked! Thanks for reading. I hope it helps someone. 🙂

  52. My daughter had a tick on her neck about a year ago. She told me she was scratched and we placed neosporin and a band aid on it. I didn’t see anything but a little scratch. A couple days later she said it hurt again and I noticed a small raised sore…so maybe coincidetal the tick found this site. For four days brushing her hair she said it hurt when I brushed her neck. She had been placing her own neosporin band aids at this point and when I removed it, I noticed it was mole shaped and my husband and I googled bluish moles. Later that evening I looked at it again and this time seen legs hanging from inside the “mole” not giving it much thought I ripped it off and was freaking out because I had never seen a tick before but knew this was one. I felt so bad and add this to my “parent fail list”. I googled many images after the fact to confirm. Fortunately I was able to remove the entire tick with no issues. I’m not sure what the neosporin did, if it helped or not. Hopefully all moms will read this and not make the same mistake I did.

  53. Ticks scare me…a lot!! I remember camping w friends as a teenager (many, many years ago) and I looked down and noticed there were ticks crawling all over my boots!! (I must have walked through a lot of tall grass or something!!??) I took them off and threw them away right there!! I just went barefoot the rest of the weekend. Haha.
    Thankfully, the Tick Key comes in a variety of colors, so I can color coordinate them with my outfit. Haha. Maybe I’ll just make it a pendant for my necklace! A new color for each day! 😉

  54. Try rubbing alcohol. The strong scent kinda puts them in a daze so they don’t regurgitate anything and they don’t struggle when you pull them out.

  55. As someone who has chronic Lyme disease, I must add… When you get tested, there is a 2 week to a month hibernation period for it to show up on the test (which by the way is only about 70% accurate). I went I diagnosed for 3 months because they tested me about a week after the tick bite and then wouldn’t test me again. There are other tests that can be used to diagnose other than the typical one they choose. Don’t back down. You know your body best!

  56. according to the conservation agent in our area — IF you pull an embedded tick from your body, enclose it in tape and tape it into your calendar or write the date on the tick tape. if the person becomes ill shortly after that experience, the lab can run tests on the tick to see whether the person has some form of disease spread by ticks. supposedly it’s much faster and easier to test the tick rather than the patient.
    my husband had rocky mountain spotted tick fever about 5 years ago, and it was 2 weeks after the tick was removed that the symptoms sent him to the ER and then a 5 day hospital stay. it was much less serious than lyme disease, but it was still very serious and took specific steps for recovery.

  57. First of all, great article. Thank you. Second of all, I have that creepy-crawly, heebie-jeebie feeling and am positive I have tics all over me after reading that, yuck!

  58. AVON has a bug repellant that works on deer ticks. It doesn’t use and is safe for animals and kids. Plus it doesn’t smell bad.

  59. I grew up in Indiana and I regularly had to take ticks off of myself or from my cat. But now as I have two boys of my own and living in Florida, I know when Tick season begins and am especially careful of camping and outdoor activities during this time. Why? Because one year we went camping in early spring and my boys came back with baby ticks in their warm spots… mainly their lower private area. I have always just ripped them out with one swift pull, bare-handed because that’s what we did as kids. Well, when my boys had quite a few under and on their private parts, I had to be especially careful and even triple look because some of the tiny ticks looked like freckles. They weren’t! And that is when I had to get the tweezers out. So, my advice here is to double and triple check, because just because you might think its too small to be a tick… It might just be a tick that needs t be removed ASAP!!!

  60. I know you’re kinda advertising a product here, but I have to mention this anyway: The absolute best thing I’ve ever found for removing ticks is the O’Tom Tick Twister: . You can usually buy it at vet offices. Unlike all other methods I’ve tried (never better than a 50% success rate of getting the heads out too), this thing works every time – I’ve NEVER messed up with one of these. I’ve been using these for over ten years now and will never ever use anything else again. It’s even quick and easy. Since these make the tick-removing process easy and quick and successful, it is no longer a never-wracking thing for me, and since I come at it with confidence and less nerves, that also makes it a much less traumatic experience for my pets as well. Soooo much better!

    1. Not advertising a product – just sharing what works for me and good options that others might like (the ticked off, the tick key, and plain old tweezers). You’re always welcome to post things you’ve tried and found effective!

      1. I have a tick key, and find it to be 100% worthless on anything smaller than a large, engorged dog tick. I’m still upset over how much $ I wasted on the tick key (couldn’t find the receipt to return it).

  61. Using Sevin Dust before you go outside on the outside of your clothing will keep chiggers and ticks off of you. Sevin Dust in 5% Carbolic Acid and as far as I know is not harmful to humans… Supposed to use on wild hogs when killed – they can carry lots of diseases and ticks… I have always just pulled out ticks. My little dachshund has one deep in his ear recently and we had to treat to a solution from the vet. Eventually it died and he shook it out… where, I don.t know…

  62. Check out for a comparison by a small animal veterinarian of many of the tick removal tools on the market. $14.75 gets you forceps specifically designed for tick removal.

  63. Thanks for your advice. I’ve been writing my own series about ticks (shiver!) and linked to your article as a good explanation of how to cope with them.

  64. Wow!!! Can’t believe someone really knows how to remove a tick!!! I have Allston done this even as a child. I grow up in the country and I’m still in the country. Every spring and summer I have delt with ticks on me, my pets and in the yard, fields trees , we’ll everywhere!!! Ha. Hike, hunt, fish, walk dogs on trails and and in bush, also did all this as a child, and trapped too. I can testify that this is the only way to remove a tick the right way. I have gotten so good at it durningy life I can get them with just my fingers. But please don’t try this unless u have many many years experience!!! I’ve been removing them for about 28 years. I have never been sick or come across a the black legged tick, aka, ( the deer tick) or the lone star tick. I live in Michigan and have my whole life. I have only ran in to to American dog tick or the wood tick. To my knowledge these two ticks are clean and are just a pest. So if I live on Michigan ( south west Michigan) ticks here are pretty clean. 🙂 thank you for sharing this is the right way to remove at tick!!! Do not listen to all the others they are dead wrong, and could be putting u at risk!! Thanks again……Julie Antles-Jarrett.

  65. On a recent podcast, you mentioned using Fractionated Red Texas Cedar oil as a preventative for humans and animals. Do you have a brand you can recommend? A search reveals wholesale merchants – any ideas on where to find retail.
    Thanks as always!

  66. I used a fine-toothed comb when my dog had one. It was the first thing I thought to use, worked like a charm. Don’t know if that would be a suggested method or if it works on humans.

  67. Have a look into Scalar waves. There are pet products and jewellery that – once your pet or human is free of ticks and fleas – will – after 20 consecutive days of wearing said product – will keep ticks and fleas and mozzies away. These products usually last for a few years and aren’t that expensive. Plus there are added benefits of Scalar waves (discovered by Tesla)

  68. I didn’t know about the regurgitation stuff…*so disgusting an image, right???*
    That being said; I was taught, 20 years ago, in Northern California how to “twirl” the tick with spit on your finger, so that it’s a slippery twirl, and the tick comes right off.
    Who did you ask about the tick throw-up thing? Could you ask about the twirling, please?

    1. Hey Joy! I got the information via some really helpful doctor-mediated message boards as well as the 3 links I put at the bottom of the post! Unfortunately since last year (when this post was written) a few of these boards have been lost and the information contained on the sites has changed, but that info is still in there 🙂

  69. Liz, thanks for this post. Forgive me, but I’m very skeptical about ticks belching out their vital fluids when pulling out of their own volition. Being hard-wired for survival, how would it benefit them to do so? Would you please post any scientific information that supports that claim?
    I’m shocked to see that no one has suggested “Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper Keychain Tweezers,” easily found on Amazon. I remove many dozens of ticks every year from myself, others and pets, and this is the tool I’ve had the best results with. It’s super important for your tweezers to have sharp, precise tips, and for the tips to angle in so you can grab the tick’s head without applying pressure to the body — especially for the really tiny ticks. Needle-nose pliers? NO WAY NO HOW. You can’t tell me that you can grab a tick’s head with needle-nose pliers without squeezing its body.
    All this said, I’m pleased to find the reference to the specially-designed forceps at I just ordered a pair to try out. The “Kotobuki Japanese Fish Bone Tweezers” on Amazon also appear to be a very promising tick tool.
    My technique is to grab the head, pull gently, and wait. Give the critter the opportunity to let go. If it doesn’t, pull harder and wait some more. Usually they will let go or have their bits ripped out of the skin, frequently still grasping a bit of skin. Occasionally leaving bits in the skin in unavoidable, and I always scrape them out with the sharp, sterilized tip of an X-Acto knife. Personally, I would never leave any visible tick parts in my body to be “released” later.
    What’s really, REALLY gross is when I find a tick in my dog that is deep in a bloody crater with only half of its body exposed. This is when Uncle Bill’s tweezers are without rival, in my experience.

    1. Hey Doug! It’s OK that you’re skeptical. I understand. I don’t know that there are any controlled clinical trials or even published “science” on this, but I do believe my information came from 1) individual sources steeped in the science (particularly Lyme docs sharing their expertise on the web) and 2) individual Lyme sufferers who are passionate about helping others avoid their same fate. My best sources are linked at the bottom of this post, so you can have a look at those. The way I understood it, from my research, was that when a tick is agitated it just…ahem…spills its guts. Not too far-fetched to me, because if a tick is interrupted before it gets its blood meal, it simply won’t survive, which is traumatic in itself I suppose – why wouldn’t the trauma of a laborious removal cause a higher risk for transmission of infection?
      For what it’s worth, I don’t think insects are as hard-wired for individual survival (like we are) as they are hard-wired for propagation; as in, the individual matters less than the entire whole of the species being propagated. It’s a numbers game for these little nasties!
      As I say within the post itself – it took lots of googling, reading and searching to come to this conclusion, and when I was doin’ all that research, I WASN’T doing it for a blog post. I was doing it to figure out the right way to handle our tick problem, and all the ticks I was finding on my husband and our animals (one that was “deep in a bloody crater!” Traumatic!) Once I reached my conclusion, I realized it was better to spread the word than to keep quiet, simply for the fact that research on this particular topic hasn’t made it to the mainstream – though it has been discussed by docs who have dedicated their lives to researching Lyme disease. This is something I believe firmly, and I think strong language is warranted…I think people choose to get ticks to “back out” because they’re too grossed out to just yank ’em out, and I felt the need to compel people to suck it up and remove the tick the right way.

  70. Thanks for posting this, even though I still have shivers and goosebumps lol. I too practically welcome spiders and other bugs compared to ticks or leeches, but at least leeches can be avoided easier. I open my car hood once and felt something move… And then rattle. A rattlesnake! In WI of all states! I even compared him to a picture to make sure, but I was so proud I didn’t even jump! Luckily I havn’t had a tick in years, or any bug bites at all. It might be the narcotics I’ve been on for years now. I seriously cry and then get goosebumps for days when I see a tick. I had lyme’s for over two years as a pre-teen. My family didn’t believe in doctors unless you were either bleeding out or unconcious, so I never received any treatment and I have arthritis in my knees and shoulders because of it, thus the narcotics. Most folks get treated right away of course, but if you are stubborn and don’t know what it is (they call Lyme’s the great imitator for good reason!) It is possible to ride it out since it isn’t always the most severe. I never got the “bullseye” mark either when I got it, so never rely on that! Untreated Lyme’s can cause so many problems, including mental disorders, so be very careful folks! Stay safe outside and thanks again for the tips!

  71. Thanks for sharing this interesting post! I would think that smearing a bentonite clay paste over the removal site would help to pull out toxins that may be in the immediate area.

  72. AromaEase sprayed around pant legs helps deter this little pests!
    We have also been spraying the dog and IT WORKS!

  73. Get some guinea hens! 4 per acre-ish. They love to eat ticks! And I love to sneer and mock them as they are being eaten.

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