Removing ticks

I do a lot of hiking and occasionally pick up a tick or two. It has been my experience that a few drops of rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide will cause a tick to dislodge and fall off. The alcohol or peroxide will also mitigate any infectious bacteria left by the tick. I’ve been told that Mercerochrome and Iodine disinfectants will also work, but have never tried them.

It’s considered proper form to include a link to the article to which you are referring.

What’s up with these pairs of ticks I keep finding? And how do I get rid of them?

There is no doubt about that. This is no different from applying nail polish, vaseline, kerosene, lit cigarettes or the dozens of other noxious materials that people routinely use to make ticks let go.

However as the article notes, using these methods all cause the tick to inject its gut contents and salivary glands into your bloodstream. That is a really, really, really bad thing.

No, this simply isn’t true. In fact is is physically impossible. The tick is feeding in your bloodstream. Any microbes or salivary proteins it injects are injected into your bloodstream. Apply disinfectant to the tick and the surface of your skin can not possibly have any effect whatsoever in disease transmission.
In short, do not follow this advice. It is dangerous. It is far, far better to do nothing than to follow the advice given here.

OK Blake, what’s the best way to remove a tick then?

As the article says, grab it by the head and very slowly pull it out . If you haven’t got the patience for that then grab it by the head and pull while turning and physically remove it.

If you don’t have forceps then in most places just leave the damn thing alone until you can find some. They don’t drink much, and there is much less danger from letting them drink than there is in poisoning them to get them off.

In some places ticks are routinely poisonous in their own right and can’t be left in without some danger. In those cases poisoning is acceptable if there are no forceps available within 48 hours or so.

The article speaks favorably of freezing the tick, but ice would be slow, and few people have liquid nitrogen around the home.

Next time I have a tick bite me, I’ll try using a can of compressed air to quick-freeze it. If you hold a can of compressed air upside down and squeeze the trigger, the gas is released and depressurized so quickly that you get a really cool spray of instant insect-freezing awesomeness.

Even if you spray tangentially to the skin, won’t there also be a risk of freezing a bit of yourself, along with the tick?

I’ve heard that as an alternative to forceps, a loose knot of thin fishing line or nylon thread can be thrown around the tick, and drawn finger-tight around its body (close to the skin, so it’s not compressing the gut), which can then be gently pulled, easing the tick out without squeezing it.

I’m not sure how that compares, in terms of safety,to using forceps. With the thread method, I suppose there’s a risk of the loop tightening on the wrong part of the parasite’s body, or being pulled too tight and just cutting off the abdomen (although these are also risks with the forceps method).

Seems that this thread has a lot of tick talk.

On hiking trips, I have had good success removing ticks from humans using olive oil and a very gentle circular rubbing motion to slowly coax the tick out of the flesh. I am pretty sure this was a recommended removal method in Austria, where ticks are a serious matter. It works well and lets you remove the entire tick quite easily.

Of course, at the time (this is over 20 years ago) I had no idea that ticks were so eager to regurgitate and I have no idea if olive oil triggers this disgusting response. The people I de-ticked continued living and stayed in good health.

However now we need to know: do ticks vomit when exposed to olive oil? Is gentle rubbing with olive oil a safe removal method?

Fair enough. How about removing leeches? It’s been almost 40 years, but I remember once when I had over 10 leeches on my legs. I tried several methods of removal, but none of them seemed safe.

You can try a tick key.

There is no entirely safe method of removing leeches. However the risk of disease from leeches is small. In many places the numbers are so high that the volume consumed (and lost afterwards through bleeding) is so high that it becomes problematic, and the open wounds produced are prone to infection.

So generally if you have one leech leave it to fall off by itself. You can put a loose bandage over it to prevent the bleeding after it leaves if you want. If you have lots of leeches, then you can remove them using the standard methods: salt, flame etc.