If you find a tick on your body, don't be alarmed. If you remove the tick within 24 hours of its attachment, chances of transmission of ehrlichiosis or other tick-borne illnesses are slim. Follow these steps for safe removal of ticks:
- Use tweezers if possible. Use a pair of flat-tipped tweezers or cover your hand with a tissue or glove to remove a tick. A tick's saliva and bodily fluids can carry the same bacterium that's found in their mouths and can enter your body through cuts or mucous membranes in your skin.
- Remove the tick slowly. Grab the tick by its mouth parts where it has attached to your skin. Pull it up and out of your skin steadily and slowly without jerking or twisting it. If you pull too quickly or grab the tick by its body, the tick will likely separate, leaving the mouth parts in your skin. If the tick's mouth parts do break off in your skin, remove them with tweezers.
Petroleum jelly and hot matches are not effective treatments for removing ticks or tick parts from your skin. These methods may make matters worse by triggering the tick to release more of its bodily fluids, and that could cause further infection.
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- Kill the tick. Once you have successfully removed the tick, kill it by placing it in an alcohol solution. Don't crush the tick in your hands or with your fingernails because the fluids it releases may contain infected bacteria. If you want to save the tick for testing in the event you become ill, put it in a plastic bag or a jar, date the container and place it in the freezer.
- Clean the bite site. Wash the bite site thoroughly with hand antiseptic or soap and water. And, thoroughly wash your hands.
- Monitor the bite site. In the following days and weeks, watch the bite site for a rash and pay close attention to any signs and symptoms that develop such as fever, muscle aches or joint pain. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, see your doctor. If possible, bring the tick with you to your appointment.
- Ehrlichiosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ehrlichiosis. Accessed May 3, 2012.
- Other tick-borne diseases. American Lyme Disease Foundation. http://www.aldf.com/Ehrlichiosis.shtml. Accessed May 3, 2012.
- Hay WW, et al. Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Pediatrics. 20th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=6589902. Accessed May 3, 2012.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=9102446. Accessed May 3, 2012.
- Graham J, et al. Tick-borne illnesses: CME update. Pediatric Emergency Care. 2011;27:141.
- Ismail N, et al. Human ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Clinical Laboratory Medicine. 2012;30:261.
- Lyme disease. American Lyme Disease Foundation. http://www.aldf.com/lyme.shtml#removal. Accessed May 4, 2012.
- Preventing tick bites. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html. Accessed May 4, 2012.