Lyme disease: How to remove and identify a tick
On this page
- How to remove a tick
- What to do with removed ticks
- Disposing of the tick
- Tick identification
- Tick testing
How to remove a tick
Removing attached ticks as soon as possible reduces the chance of infection. Infected blacklegged ticks need to be attached for at least 24 hours in order to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
If you find an attached tick, follow these instructions to remove it:
- Use clean, fine-point tweezers to grasp the head as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull straight out.
- Try not to twist or squeeze the tick. Ticks firmly attach their mouthparts into the skin requiring slow but firm traction to remove them.
- If the mouthparts break off and remain in the skin, remove them with the tweezers. If you're unable to remove them easily, leave them alone and let the skin heal.
- Wash the bite area with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer.
Do not try to remove the tick by:
- burning it
- smothering it with:
- nail polish
- essential oils
- petroleum jelly
- nail polish remover
This can cause the tick to release its stomach contents, which can be infected, into the bite area. This can increase your chance of infection.
Visit your health care provider as soon as possible if:
- you're not comfortable with removing a tick
- you can't remove the tick because it has buried itself deep into your skin
- you have symptoms of Lyme disease, aren't feeling well or have concerns after being bitten by a tick
Your health care provider may ask you:
- where on your body the tick was attached
- how long you think the tick was attached to you
- where you were (city and province) at the time you were bitten by the tick or may have been exposed to ticks
What to do with removed ticks
Put the tick in a sealable plastic bag or container such as a pill bottle. Record the date and location of the bite, as well as the part of your body where you were bitten.
If you see your health care provider, bring:
- a photo of the tick or
- the tick in a sealed bag or container
Your health care provider may be able to help identify the type of tick that bit you.
Disposing of ticks
Kill the tick before disposing of it by drowning it in rubbing alcohol or by freezing it for several days. Avoid squashing ticks with bare fingers as infection may enter through breaks in your skin, such as close to the fingernail.
You can dispose of ticks in your household garbage once they're dead.
Tick identification can help to:
- determine if the bug is a tick
- determine if it is the type of tick that can carry Lyme disease
- identify the areas where tick populations are common or increasing (monitoring)
You can identify a tick by:
- taking a photo and sending it to an image-based identification platform like eTick
- contacting your provincial public health authority to find out about tick identification programs in your area
Tick testing, done by your local and provincial public health authorities, can help us to determine:
- which bacteria and viruses are in ticks and the percentage of ticks infected with a particular bacterium or virus
- how the type of bacterium and virus and percentage of ticks infected with them changes over time
- whether new or emerging bacteria and viruses are occurring in ticks
Tick testing isn't intended to guide diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease. This is because:
- ticks may not have been attached for at least 24 hours to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease
- a person may have been unknowingly bitten by another infected tick that was not found
- a health care provider can consider providing a preventative treatment after a person has been bitten by a tick and this can occur without tick testing
- a diagnosis of Lyme disease is based on:
- travel history
- blood tests, when required
- exposure to blacklegged ticks
Your health care provider will determine if you need a blood test.
Contact your local and provincial public health authorities for details on:
- the tick testing program available in your area
- how to submit a tick for testing
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