Removing a tick once it's got it's head embedded

Submitted: Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 16:31
ThreadID: 21925 Views:50274 Replies:12 FollowUps:14
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Removing a tick once its head is embedded into the skin can be a tricky exercise. Last week I spent five great days at the Year 7 school camp near Albany, and one of the boys felt something land on his neck. His mate checked it out and correctly deduced it was a tick. Trouble was, in the few minutes before we got to it, the tick had dug in on the boys neck at the top of his (the boys) spine – a nasty spot to risk potential infection. It’s important to remove the embedded head otherwise it will get infected and cause additional grief. Usually they crawl around for a while, but this one must have been hungry.

So – what are the tricks to getting them out? They came thick and fast from the assembled masses.

First we tried Vaseline to try to entice the tick to back out by itself. Failed

Second we tried a ‘tried and true’ method of wrapping a bit of cotton around the tick right on the skin, and gently pulling the ends of the cotton, whilst easing the tick out with tweezers. I’d not seen this done before and had my doubts. Result was it failed in getting tick out, and probably killed it, which is not what you want to happen. :-(

Third we tried turning the tick anticlockwise with tweezers as it was gently pulled out. Bingo – success. Apparently when the tick digs in it turns clockwise, so withdrawing needs to be done anticlockwise.

We didn’t try a hot match, or eucalyptus oil.

Any other tips to add?
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Reply By: Big Woody - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 16:36

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 16:36
I've come home from fighting a bushfire one day. Next night after work I had a shower and found a tick on my "Sack".
I don't really want to say much more about that but he'd had a good feed and my eye's still water when I think about it!!!!

AnswerID: 106009

Follow Up By: Lone Wolf - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 19:10

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 19:10
... and the crabs didn't attack it?....
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Follow Up By: Shane (QLD) - Monday, Apr 11, 2005 at 07:50

Monday, Apr 11, 2005 at 07:50
Lone Wolf,
I have to admit I nearly fell off my chair laughing when i read your answer! Good one. Still laughing while I'm typing.
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Reply By: Toy_Hilux - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 17:08

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 17:08
One of the best methods that we have found up in in sunny Nth Queensland is to spray aerogaurd or rid onto the tick and then just leave it. The spray will kill it, then it will just fall out. After camping alot up here you find these things out. Too hard to carry everything else like metho which also works.
AnswerID: 106012

Follow Up By: John - Qld - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 18:29

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 18:29
Bad post order here

That's gotta sting - ouch!

I don't think Big Woody would like to have tried this method.

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Follow Up By: Toy_Hilux - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 19:57

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 19:57
That is what the QAS informed us to use and it did work without stinging. Was informed that try and pull a tick out no matter how gentle you are it will release toxins into your system. Not good as I have experienced this with blood poisioning from a scrub tick.
FollowupID: 363110

Reply By: Exploder - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 17:35

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 17:35
I have only ever got two ticks on me. One on my arm and the other on my back. Both times I just ran a flame from a cig lighter over it quickly and they came straight out.

Ortho wouldn’t recommend that method on a year 7 camp don’t think it would go down to well with the parent’s of the boy. The tweezers were the best way to go
AnswerID: 106016

Reply By: Homeboy - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 18:54

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 18:54
You're not meant to smother the tick with anything as it runs the risk of upsetting the tick and by doing so it may regurgitate its stomach contents back into the person which can cause infection. The best method is just to hold onto the tick as close to the head as possible and apply slight pressure (not squashing it!!!) you may have to hold it for a while but it will eventually let go as it wil feel uncomfortable.

I hope the boy was OK afterwards :o)

Sasha (Mrs Homeboy)
AnswerID: 106023

Follow Up By: Tim HJ61 (WA) - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 19:06

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 19:06
Thanks Mrs Homeboy - that's a good point. No doubt one that will get Big Woody thinking even more. Maybe we need to call him Little Woody for a while......

And yes, the boy was fine after his ordeal, thanks. He was a real trooper, having far too many parents fussing over him making 'ooooh that looks bad' noises, and 'well that didn't work, what now?', and with more than a little stuff on their breath to avoid any naked flames in the vicinity. (Well, it was after dark and we'd taken the kids down to the beach to look at the stars. Parents needed SOMETHING to get them through four nights on camp with 67 of someone else's.)

Tick victim survived a situation enough to scare anyone I'd reckon.!

FollowupID: 363097

Follow Up By: Homeboy - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 19:16

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 19:16
Glad to hear he was OK the kids tend to deal with any situation far better than the parents. Fair play to you though for taking 67 kids camping I think I would of passed out at the thought of it!

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Reply By: blackmax11 - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 19:03

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 19:03
Kero will generally make a tick back out.
AnswerID: 106024

Follow Up By: govo - Monday, Apr 11, 2005 at 20:08

Monday, Apr 11, 2005 at 20:08
Your right blackmax..when l was a army medic back in the 1980's ,the grunts used to get ticks by the hundreds up at shoalwater bay training area and we always used a bit of kero or insect repplent and twist the buggers anti clock wise..some of the places they would get them was very embassing and unreachalble and would have to come to us to get them removed
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Reply By: Member - Jimbo (VIC) - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 19:17

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 19:17
We were away camping years ago and one of my sons got one in him. I thought Kero was the go, but a bloody know all we were camping with said a bit of heat on them from a cigarette would do it. Well, after he had a bit of a go my son started to complain that it was hurting, so before it got to the point of burning him I told Tony to take the bloody cig away. I then dobbed some Kero on it and out it came. No pain, no drama.

I then said to Tony "Isn't it leeches you dob a smoke on to make them let go"

"Oh yeah, that's right, I knew it was something" he said.


And yes, before anyone else says it, I was a d!ckhead for letting him try. Anyway, no harm done, my boy didn't get burnt and the tick was out.

Stick with Kero.


AnswerID: 106028

Follow Up By: Tim HJ61 (WA) - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 19:30

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 19:30
Thanks Jim and others who have suggested the tried and true kero.

What puzzles me is why kero works and vaseline didn't. They are both petrochem based products and that was why I suggested it on the night - not having kero around the place.

Might be something to do with the odour of kero, or
how volatile the chemical is would relate to how much it burns or irritates and make the difference I'd guess.


FollowupID: 363103

Follow Up By: Member - Jimbo (VIC) - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 20:18

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 20:18

Ive think you've hit it on the difference between Kero and Vas.

I'll rub Vas on my lips if they are dry, and it's also a great aid for a bit off the old "crack chafe". I've never applied Kero the the crack and doubt that I ever will LOL.


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Reply By: Member - Anni M (SA) - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 21:24

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 21:24
Wow! Twice in one day I get to quote Prof Julian White!! He suggests applying alcohol to a tick to irritate it! He does say not to hold the tick by the body as it may pull it off and leave the mouth parts embedded in the skin. The alcohol sounds good for the humans but not the ticks!! Good advice about how to remove the mouth parts by turning it anticlockwise. (Julian White doesn't address this problem) Incidentally Julian White also says that after a tick bite a tetanus booster should be considered if a booster hasn't been given in the last 5 years.
AnswerID: 106046

Follow Up By: Tim HJ61 (WA) - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 21:49

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 21:49
Thanks Anni,

I'm just thinking this thread will look just so appetising for our international visitors doing their homework before coming to our great land!

They know about crocs spiders and flies, and now we add the details of ticks - especially Big Woody's contribution.

Should filter out the faint hearted :-)

BTW, who is the great Prof Julian White??
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Follow Up By: Member - Jimbo (VIC) - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 22:08

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 22:08

Prof White (according to medical journals) is an esteemed Colo-Rectal Surgeon who specialised in the removal of parasitic insects which invade the colon. His studies were conducted in the 80's and 90's prior to his retirement caused by an incurable bowell dysfunction brought about by his own introduced experiments.

Sorry, I just made this up because I was bored.



PS Anni may be able to contribute something sensible, buggered if I can.
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Follow Up By: Member - iMusty (VIC) - Monday, Apr 11, 2005 at 09:03

Monday, Apr 11, 2005 at 09:03
Jimbo (VIC)

Are you an Wolfie related somehow?
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Follow Up By: Member - Anni M (SA) - Monday, Apr 11, 2005 at 09:32

Monday, Apr 11, 2005 at 09:32
Hi Tim,

I must admit our overseas friends may find all this a bit revolting, and I have to say that in travelling all over Australia I have never been bitten by a tick, though I have removed them from my dog!

Prof Julian White is a professor of medicine at Adelaide Uni, who specialises in studies of envenomation, in other words the treatment of bites from nasties! I was quoting from a book produced by CSL who manufacture antivenom, written by Julian White.

Hope this helps. Mind you Jimbo's explanation is certainly more colourful!!
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Follow Up By: Member - Jimbo (VIC) - Monday, Apr 11, 2005 at 22:17

Monday, Apr 11, 2005 at 22:17

your ditasteful comments about my parentage have been noted.

I have referred them to my legal advisers; Soo, Grabbit and Runn.

Any further suggestion that I may be related to the Wolf Man will result in legal action.

You have been warned :-)
FollowupID: 363273

Reply By: Member - Jeff M (WA) - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 22:05

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 22:05
Back in my TAFE days a friend of mine who quite often indulged in Acid and other drugs of the day, found that dropping acid made the tick bugger off quick smart! LOL

Again, probally not the best solution for a year 7 camp!!!! ;-)
AnswerID: 106054

Reply By: Tim HJ61 (WA) - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 22:37

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 22:37
Hi Tickers,

Google is also an ever helpful friend and believe it or not there is a website dedicated to the paralysis tick of eastern australia. Grusome pictures, heaps of good stuff to keep you alert for things that crawl in the bush.

Seeking more WA based information - Qld ticks may be different from WA ticks; I found a fantastic resource posted on the WA Police website on survival in the bush. In 112 pages it covers all sorts of things from vehicle selection and preparation, rescue tips, creek crossings, making fire without matches, bush butchery, bush tucker, radio tips. It also said deaths have been recorded from tick bites - awesome info for a Year 7 camp! It says "Ticks should be removed using alcohol to irritate and then pulling off using tweezers or tickpliers on either side of the mouth part."

The Department of Medical Entomology at Uni NSW says not to use kero as it makes the tick inject toxins. I'm suspecting the paralysis tick is one nasty bugger and needs to be treated more carefully than the common WA roo tick.

Whilst there seems to be disagreement on the use of irritants, the importance of getting as close to the skin with whatever your tool of choice seems consistent across sources. Some say it doesn't matter if you leave the little pincer bits in the skin as they will come away like a surface splinter. Others says it is important to get the lot out.

Perhaps the best message from all of this involves tripping on acid to remove the tick and drinking the alcohol to numb the problem completely. Hate to think of a bad acid trip being spooked by that psycodelic monster tick .......

AnswerID: 106063

Reply By: Member - Hugh (WA) - Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 23:59

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005 at 23:59
Hi Tim,

This wasn't Carine PS Yr7 by chance?

Anyhow we have found acetone (nail polish remover) works a trick.

AnswerID: 106072

Reply By: BBails - Monday, Apr 11, 2005 at 09:29

Monday, Apr 11, 2005 at 09:29
Ive have to rmove many ticks from both animals and people over the years. Ive never had any sucess with metho, too impatient I think. I use long nose pliers and grip them as close to the skin as possible. They are pretty tough and Ive never had a head come off yet. It often takes a lot of force to pull them out. I dont think it hurts too much cause the cat wouldnt stand for it - Ha ha.

AnswerID: 106113

Reply By: Waynepd (NSW) - Monday, Apr 11, 2005 at 20:06

Monday, Apr 11, 2005 at 20:06
I have a tick removing device which i bought from my local vet. it is used in a similar way to the Tim's tweezer trick except it is like a 2 pronged fork which locates behind the ticks head and you spin it anticlocwise. we have a lot of ticks around home so it gets used quite often on the dog and ourselves too.

AnswerID: 106219

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