How to Remove a Tick Head

Ticks are tiny parasites that can latch onto your skin when you spend time outdoors. When a tick bites, it embeds its head into your skin and feeds on your blood. It’s important to remove the entire tick, including the head, to minimize the risk of infection and disease transmission.

If you discover a tick attached to your skin, there are several strategies you can employ to get rid of it completely.

What Are Ticks?

Ticks are tiny, blood-sucking arachnids that can transmit various diseases through their bites. They’re commonly found in wooded and grassy areas.

Blacklegged Tick (Deer Tick)

You may know the Blacklegged Tick by its other name, the Deer Tick. Predominantly found in the eastern part of North America, this type of tick is notorious for transmitting Lyme disease.

These ticks have a two-year life cycle and exist in three stages: larva, nymph, and adult. Each stage requires a blood meal from either a human, bird, or other mammal to grow into the next stage.

American Dog Tick (Wood Tick)

The American Dog Tick, commonly referred to as the Wood Tick, is prevalent in areas with little to no tree cover in the United States. They primarily feed on dogs, hence their name, but aren’t strangers to a human host.

Notably, these ticks are carriers of bacteria that can lead to diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. These can cause discomfort but generally aren’t life-threatening.

Brown Dog Tick (Dog Tick)

A unique characteristic about this tick, is that it prefers dogs as hosts throughout all its life stages. Infestations can happen both outdoors and indoors, typically anywhere where dogs frequent.

The Brown Dog Tick is a known transmitter of diseases such as canine ehrlichiosis and babesiosis but is not a significant threat to humans.

Lone Star Tick

When dealing with the Lone Star Tick, you’re dealing with a fairly aggressive tick, primarily found in the southeastern and eastern United States. This tick is identifiable by the white spot on the female’s back.

It’s a known carrier of ehrlichiosis, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Heartland virus, and tularemia, and can even trigger a red meat allergy in human hosts. 

Rocky Mountain Wood Tick

If you end up in the Rocky Mountain states, you might come across the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick. These ticks are large, have ornate backs, and have long mouthparts.

These ticks are responsible for spreading diseases like Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia.

Soft Ticks

Soft ticks differ in their feeding patterns and appearance from more common Hard ticks. Usually, they feed quickly, often going unnoticed, and their bodies are softer and more leathery.

In contrast to other tick species, who prefer latching onto a host for extended periods, soft ticks prefer brief blood meals. They’re infamous for transmitting tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF).

Side-effects and Tick-borne diseases

Tick bites might appear harmless at first, but they can lead to various health issues. It’s important to know the potential effects of tick bites as well as the necessary precautionary measures.

Skin Irritation

The localized irritation resulting from tick bites is primarily a reaction to the tick’s saliva, which contains bioactive toxins and molecules. 

These molecules can trigger an inflammatory response in the skin, leading to redness, swelling, and itching. The irritation is usually confined to the specific area where the tick has fed. 

Allergic Reaction

An allergic reaction to tick bites can occur in some individuals, leading to symptoms such as redness, swelling, itching, and hives. 

In severe cases, it may cause symptoms that warrant immediate medical attention, like difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is one of the most common diseases transmitted by the Blacklegged Tick. You may experience symptoms like fatigue, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes.

The most distinctive symptom is a skin rash, often resembling a bull’s eye. If left untreated, the infection can spread to your joints, heart, and nervous system.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)

Transmitted mainly by the American Dog Tick, RMSF results in high fever, severe headaches, muscle pain, and sometimes a rash that begins on the wrists and ankles.

These symptoms usually start within a week following the tick bite. Seek medical help as soon as possible if you suspect RMSF, as it can be fatal if not treated early.


This illness is transmitted by several types of ticks, including the Dog Tick and Lone Star Tick, which affects the skin, eyes, lymph nodes, and lungs.

Additional common symptoms associated with tularemia include skin ulcers at the site of infection, swollen lymph glands, fever and chill. Luckily, tularemia is highly treatable with antibiotics.

Heartland Virus

Carried by the Lone Star Tick, the Heartland Virus is a relatively new disease that causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and diarrhea.

As of yet, there is no specific treatment for this virus, which makes its prevention even more critical.

Colorado Tick Fever

Transmitted by the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick, Colorado Tick Fever causes symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, body aches, and fatigue.

The symptoms usually start within a week of the tick bite. In most cases, you’ll recover within a week or two, with rest and hydration as the recommended treatment.

Tick Paralysis

As you might guess, tick paralysis is a rare but severe condition caused by the toxins present in tick saliva. These toxins affect your nervous system resulting in this apparent paralysis.

Initially you may begin to experience increased weakness and difficulty walking. If the tick is not removed, it can then lead to complete paralysis. Thankfully, removing the tick causes these symptoms to improve rapidly.

Tools for Tick Removal

Tick removal can be a delicate process, and having the right tools is essential. In this section, we will discuss some of the most common and effective tools for tick removal.

Fine-tipped Tweezers

When it comes to tick removal, fine-tipped tweezers are your most simple and effective tool. All you need to do is grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure.

This method reduces any chances of the tick’s head and mouthparts being left in the skin.

Specific Tick Removal Tools

A tick removal spoon, hook, and card are handy tools that work by sliding the notch of the spoon or hook under the tick. You then apply slight upward pressure until the tick detaches.

Another specific tool looks much like a credit card. This tick card fits snugly in your wallet, ready to be used in tick emergencies. 

This tool features a magnifying lens and two different-sized removal notches for different-sized ticks. You’ll use it by sliding the notch under the tick and lifting it gently from the skin.

Removing a Tick

Navigating through the process of tick removal can feel like a daunting task, but rest assured, it doesn’t have to be. Proper removal is critical to minimize the chance of disease transmission and infection.

Here, you’ll discover techniques and tools that can help you safely and effectively remove ticks. 

Prepare Your Tools

Before attempting to remove a tick, gather fine-tipped tweezers and clean them with soap and hot water.

Additionally, have some rubbing alcohol or antiseptic nearby to clean the bite area afterward.

Grasp the Tick Head

Using the tweezers, firmly grasp the tick’s head as close to your skin’s surface as possible.

Avoid squeezing the body, as this can push more saliva into the skin, increasing the risk of infection.

Apply Pressure and Pull

Slowly pull upward with continuous, even pressure without twisting or jerking the tick.

This helps ensure proper removal of the tick and minimizes the risk of leaving mouthparts behind.

Clean the Bite Area

Once the tick is removed, thoroughly clean the bite and surrounding area with rubbing alcohol or antiseptic. 

Taking a shower and changing into clean clothes is advised to minimize the risk of infection. This ensures that the site is not exposed to any external pathogens after tick removal.

Look for Remaining Mouthparts

Sometimes, the tick’s mouthparts can remain in the skin. If you see a small black dot, try to gently remove it using the same method as before (tweezers and even pressure).

Remember to stay calm during the tick removal process. With patience and proper technique, you can safely and effectively remove ticks from your skin.

Tick Removal Aftercare

Successfully removing a tick is only the first part of the journey. Post-removal care is an equally important step in reducing potential complications.

This section will guide you through effective techniques for care after tick removal, arming you with the knowledge to handle this situation effectively.

Cleaning Hands and Tools

Immediately after removing the tick, thoroughly clean your hands and tools with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

This reduces the chance of infection and eliminates any remaining tick parts or bacteria that might remain on your hands or tools.

Applying Ointment

After cleansing the wound, you may apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment. This acts as an additional layer of protection against potential infection.

It’s essential, however, to monitor the site for signs of worsening or persistent infection, such as redness, swelling, or warmth.

Monitoring for Symptoms

For several weeks following the bite, keep an eye on the site for the development of a rash. Observe if you develop any symptoms like fever, headaches, joint or muscle aches, or an unusual level of fatigue.

If you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical care promptly, as you may have contracted a tick-borne illness.

Tick Disposal

Dispose of the tick by placing it in a sealed bag, flushing it down the toilet, or drowning it in rubbing alcohol. Do not crush the tick with your fingers.

If bitten, always take note of the date of the bite, the appearance of the tick and take pictures for tick identification in case symptoms start to manifest.

When to See a Doctor

When dealing with ticks, knowing when to seek medical advice is crucial. Although most tick bites can be handled at home, some circumstances necessitate medical intervention.

Understanding when it’s time to consult a healthcare provider can make a considerable difference in preventing further complications and ensuring a swift recovery from potential tick-borne diseases.

Incomplete Tick Removal

If parts of the tick remain embedded in your skin after your removal attempt, you should seek professional medical help.

A doctor can safely remove the remaining parts and reduce the risk of infection.

Rash or Fever

Should a rash appear, especially if it looks like a bull’s eye, or if you develop a fever within several weeks of removing a tick, you should contact a healthcare provider immediately.

These could be signs of Lyme disease or another tick-borne illness. This proactive approach is an effective way of dealing with complications before the condition becomes severe.

Persistent Symptoms

If you continue to feel unwell after removing a tick, it may be necessary to see a doctor.

Symptoms such as fatigue, flu-like feelings, joint or muscle aches, or swollen lymph nodes could be a sign of a tick-borne disease.

Exposure to Tick Prone Areas

If you’ve been in an area known for ticks and tick-borne diseases, particularly if you’ve found multiple ticks on your body, it’s a good idea to see a doctor.

They can assess your risk and offer a prophylactic treatment against certain diseases like Lyme disease.

Severe Reactions to a Tick Bite

While rare, some people have severe allergic reactions to tick bites. If you’re experiencing something serious like difficulty breathing, chest pain, severe rash, or severe joint pain, seek emergency medical attention.

These symptoms may indicate a severe allergic reaction or an advanced infection that requires immediate treatment.

Preventing Tick Exposure

As you embark on outdoor activities, the risk of encountering ticks increases. The best strategy to protect yourself from tick-borne diseases doesn’t start with tick removal but rather with preventing tick exposure in the first place.

Wear Protective Clothing

When planning any outdoor activities such as hiking or camping, especially in wooded or grassy areas, dress appropriately. Opt for long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and closed shoes.

Light-colored clothing can help you spot ticks more easily. To add an extra level of protection, tuck your pants into your socks to deter ticks from accessing your skin.

Use Tick Repellents

Consider applying a tick repellent to your skin or clothing. Repellents containing DEET or picaridin can be applied to the skin. 

Products containing permethrin can be used on clothing and outdoor gear, such as tents, for better protection.

Avoid Tick Habitats

Ticks tend to thrive in wooded, bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.

Whenever possible, stick to the center of the trails and avoid walking through tall bushes or other vegetation.

Perform Regular Tick Checks

After any outdoor activities, take the time to check yourself, your children, and your pets for ticks.

Be sure to check the underarms, ears, belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially, in the hair.

Maintain Your Yard

Keeping your yard neat can reduce tick habitats.

This can be done by mowing the grass regularly, clearing tall grass around the home, and removing any leaf debris.

Protect Your Pets

Tick exposure can also occur from pets that spend time outdoors.

Use veterinarian-approved tick control products on your pets, and check them for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outside.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the effective tools for tick removal?

Tick removal tools include fine-tipped tweezers, tick removal hooks or spoons, and tick removal cards.

Tweezers are simple and very effective as they can firmly grasp the tick close to the skin’s surface. Tick hooks or spoons slide under the tick and apply upward pressure to detach it, while tick removal cards have a notch for sliding under the tick and lifting it off the skin.

How do you safely extract a tick head from the skin?

To safely extract a tick head, use clean, fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure.

Avoid twisting or jerking the tick, as this may cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin.

How do you care for a tick bite after removing the tick?

After tick removal, you should clean the site thoroughly with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Applying an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment can also help prevent potential infection.

Furthermore, it’s important to save the tick or take pictures for identification purposes if symptoms of illness appear such as development of a rash, fever, or other unusual symptoms.

What are some preventative measures against tick exposure?

Preventing tick exposure involves wearing protective clothing, applying tick repellents, avoiding tick habitats, checking for ticks regularly after outdoor activities, maintaining neat yards, and protecting your pets with veterinarian-approved tick control products.

These steps can significantly reduce your chances of tick bites and exposure to the potential diseases they may carry.