There are a number of tick-removal tools on the market all over the world. All claim to be safe and effective but this may not always be the case. In choosing a tick-removal tool, it is important to remember that the most important aspects of tick removal are:
- The tick's body must not be compressed, as this can force out saliva and gut contents which may contain disease-causing organisms.
- The tick should not be irritated or injured, as this may result in it regurgitating (vomiting) saliva and gut contents along with any disease-causing organisms.
- The mouth parts of the tick should be cleanly removed along with the rest of its body.
- The tick should be removed without causing the host discomfort.
As an independent organisation, BADA-UK is not affiliated with the manufacturers of any tick-removal products. We have reviewed a number of devices that are available in the UK and, through studies and our own experience, one product has proved its efficiency.
The O'Tom Tick Twister ®
The O'Tom Tick Twister ® is favoured by professionals (veterinary, medical, forestry and field workers etc), as well as by members of the general public.
In a comparison study of four different tick-removal devices, published in the Veterinary Record (2006, 159, 526-529), the O'Tom Tick Twister ® was compared with surgical forceps, a pen-tweezer device, and a tempered steel tool (slit and traction action). The O'Tom Tick Twister ® proved to be significantly better than the other devices for the time required to remove the tick, the ease with which the tick was grabbed, the force needed to extract the tick, the reaction of the animal, and the condition of the tick's mouth parts.
In order to ascertain whether mouth parts are intact, examination under an electron microscope is required. It is not possible to see the mouth parts that enter the skin with the naked eye or a magnifying glass. For more information about the tick's feeding process, please see our tick 'Feeding' section.
Why is it safe to twist with this tool?
Whatever the method of tick removal, the tick's barbed mouth parts are so microscopic and delicate there is a chance they can break off (see image below). However, using a best-practice method will reduce this risk.
When using tweezers / forceps, the tick is grabbed close to the skin, gripping the tick at the base of its mouth parts. Twisting the tick then exerts pressure to its mouth parts, which can cause them to break off. You should NEVER twist with tweezers.
The O'Tom Tick Twister ® cradles the body of the tick and doesn't exert pressure to either its mouth parts or its abdomen. It can therefore be safely twisted in one direction (either clockwise or counter-clockwise – the tick is not screw-threaded), which allows the barbs on the tick's proboscis to be freed from the surrounding tissue. The twisting action also helps to crack the special saliva cement that most hard-tick species secrete to fix themselves in. Because the tool doesn't cause any compression to the body of the tick, it minimises the risk of back-flow of the tick's saliva and gut contents, and therefore helps to avoid disease transmission.
If you use this tool to lever (like a crow bar) the mouth parts are likely to break off. If you twist the tick one way and then the other, the mouth parts are likely to break off. Twist in one direction only.
The O'Tom Tick Twister ® is suitable for the removal of ticks from both humans and animals and can be disinfected with normal disinfectants or sterilised in an autoclave at 284°F (140°C), so is reusable. The product is made from recyclable plastic, which can also be incinerated without pollution (no chlorine fumes during combustion).
Tick Removal Instructions
Ideally, wear rubber / plastic gloves or, in the absence of gloves, shield fingers with tissue or paper.
- Choose the most suitable O'Tom Tick Twister ® tool, according to the size of the tick (each pack contains two sizes, one for adult ticks and one for the tiny nymph ticks).
- Engage the tool by approaching the tick from the side (the body of the tick is flat when unfed) until it is held securely.
- Lift the tool very lightly and TURN IT (clockwise or counter-clockwise). The tick detaches itself after 2-3 rotations.
- After removing the tick, disinfect the bite site and wash hands with soap and water.
- You may want to save the tick for identification in case the person or animal the tick was attached to becomes ill within several weeks. To save the tick, write the date of the bite in pencil on a piece of paper and put it with the tick in a sealed plastic bag and store it in a freezer. Your doctor / vet can then identify that a tick bite has occurred and use this information to assist in making an accurate diagnosis.
If you don't want to keep the tick, the best way to dispose of it is to place it in a tissue and squash it. Then flush the tissue down the toilet or dispose of it in a dustbin. This will prevent the tick from going on to bite another person or animal.
Although not every tick carries disease, immediate removal of an attached tick is recommended.
DO NOT use petroleum jelly, any liquid solutions, or freeze / burn the tick, as this is likely to stimulate it to regurgitate (vomit) saliva and stomach contents, increasing the chance of infection.