Promptly removing a tick can reduce your chances of becoming infected with a tick-borne disease. Always check yourself for ticks after outdoor activity. If you find a tick on you, remove it right away. In most cases, a tick removed within 48 hours of attachment will not transmit disease.
- Use tweezers or tissue (not bare hands) to grasp the tick as close to the surface of the skin as possible. Do not burn, smother, cut, or coat with nail polish. Ticks are not able to remove themselves once fully inserted and need to be removed with tweezers or a tick removal tool that pulls the tick out.
- Pull away from the skin using steady, even pressure. Don’t jerk or twist the tick.
- After removal, wash the bite area and your hands with soap and water, or use a disinfectant solution.
- Consult a health professional if you are unable to completely remove a tick, or if you develop a rash or fever 3-30 days after being bitten by a tick.
Tick identification and testing options
Ticks can be brought to the District office for identification - the District does not test ticks collected from people or animals. San Mateo County Public Health Laboratory is not currently testing ticks.
People who have removed a tick sometimes wonder if they should have it tested for evidence of infection. Although some commercial groups offer testing, in general the CDC does not recommend this because:
- Laboratories that conduct tick testing are not required to have the high standards of quality control used by clinical diagnostic laboratories. Results of tick testing should not be used for treatment decisions.
- Positive results showing that the tick contains a disease-causing organism do not necessarily mean that you have been infected.
- Negative results can lead to false assurance. You may have been unknowingly bitten by a different tick that was infected.
- If you have been infected, you will probably develop symptoms before results of the tick test are available. If you do become ill, you should not wait for tick testing results before beginning appropriate treatment.
To avoid tick-borne illness, it is best to consult a health professional if you are unable to completely remove a tick, or if you develop a rash or fever 3-30 days after being bitten by a tick.
Page last reviewed: November 7, 2023