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Tick Removal Advice - Liquid Soap Technique

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Message advises that the best way to remove a tick is to cover it with liquid soap and wait for it to detach itself.

tick soap removal
© Campbell

Brief Analysis

This tick removal method is not recommended by health authorities. The application of substances such as soap or petroleum jelly is considered by experts as slower and less effective than manual methods such as using tweezers.



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Tick removal, good advice

Tick removal,

If you don't know, this is good info whether you live in the city or the country! It is about time for the little stinkers to latch on. Please forward to anyone with children... or hunters or dogs, or anyone who even steps outside in summer!!

A School Nurse has written the info below -- good enough to share -- And it really works!!

I had a pediatrician tell me what she believes is the best way to remove a tick. This is great, because it works in those places where it's some times difficult to get to with tweezers: between toes, in the middle of a head full of dark hair, etc.

Apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball.. Cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball and swab it for a few seconds (15-20), the tick will come out on its own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift it away. This technique has worked every time I've used it (and that was frequently), and it's much less traumatic for the patient and easier for me. Unless someone is allergic to soap, I can't see that this would be damaging in any way. I even had my doctor's wife call me for advice because she had one stuck to her back and she couldn't reach it with tweezers. She used this method and immediately called me back to say, "It worked!"

Please pass on. Everyone needs this helpful hint.

Detailed Analysis

According to this widely circulated message, the best way to remove a tick is to cover it with liquid soap. The message claims that the liquid soap will cause the tick to "come out on its own" after 15 or 20 seconds. Alternative versions of the message have advised uses to apply various other substances to the tick, including petroleum jelly, nail polish or kerosene. Some versions suggest applying heat to the tick via a hot match.

However, none of these methods are recommended or condoned by health authorities. Most experts recommend that ticks be removed as quickly as possible using tweezers rather than by applying a substance such as liquid soap or nail polish or by applying heat via a match or other hot object.

An article about tick removal on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes:
Avoid folklore remedies such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible--not waiting for it to detach.
In an article about ticks and flea control on animals the US Food and Drug Administration warns:
Never use a burned match, petroleum jelly, or nail polish to try to remove ticks. These methods are ineffective.
And a MedlinePlus article about tick removal concurs, noting:
Do NOT try to burn the tick with a match or other hot object.
Do NOT twist the tick when pulling it out.
Do NOT try to kill, smother, or lubricate the tick with oil, alcohol, vaseline, or similar material.
A further article discussing tick removal published on states:
There is very limited experimental evidence to support most suggested tick removal strategies, and only a few reviews. While both mechanical removal and chemical incapacitation have their advocates, experimental evidence suggests that chemical irritants are ineffective at persuading ticks to detach, and risk triggering injection of salivary fluids and possible transmission of disease-causing microbes. In addition, suffocating ticks by smothering them with petroleum jelly is an ineffective method of killing them because they have such a low respiratory rate (only requiring 3-15 breaths per hour) that by the time they die, there may have been sufficient time for pathogens to be transmitted.
As with petroleum jelly, liquid soap is likely to be ineffective because of the tick's low respiration rate.

And a detailed scientific study by Glen R. Needham, PhD that evaluated five popular methods for removing ticks found that "the application of petroleum jelly, fingernail polish, 70% isopropyl alcohol, or a hot kitchen match failed to induce detachment of adult American dog ticks".

Experts agree that it is important to remove a tick as soon as possible after it is discovered. Thus, even if applying a substance such as soap does eventually cause the tick to detach, the unnecessary delay in removal could significantly increase the risk of disease transmission. Health authorities note that the preferred method for removing a tick is to use fine-tipped tweezers. The CDC tick removal article notes:
How to remove a tick

1. Use fine-tipped tweezers and protect your fingers with a tissue, paper towel, or latex gloves. Avoid removing ticks with your bare hands.

2. Grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

3. After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

Last updated: May 11, 2015
First published: February 11, 2011
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

CDC - Tick Removal
MedLinePlus - Tick Removal
Removal of ticks: a review of the literature
Evaluation of Five Popular Methods for Tick Removal

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