The Claim: Remove a Tick From Your Skin by Burning It - New York Times
July 5, 2005
The Claim: Remove a Tick From Your Skin by Burning It
By ANAHAD O'CONNOR
THE FACTS Ever notice a tiny speck on your skin and then discover that what looked like a piece of dirt was actually a tick? For most people, that moment is about the only time exposing an arm or a leg to an open flame can seem like a good idea.
But while burning a tick into submission is probably the most popular removal method, studies show that it can also be the worst. Getting the tick out as quickly as possible is crucial, since the likelihood of contracting Lyme disease or another infection rises steeply after 24 hours. But traumatizing the insect with heat or too much force also carries the risk of making it regurgitate, further increasing the likelihood of infection.
In 1996, a team of Spanish researchers studied 52 patients who sought treatment at a hospital after extracting a tick. They found that those who accomplished this by squeezing, crushing or burning the insects were far more likely to develop symptoms of Lyme disease or other complications than those who used the proper removal method: grasping the pest as close to the skin as possible with tweezers and then gently pulling it straight up.
Any remaining pieces should be pulled out and the site should be cleaned with a disinfectant.
Smothering Vaseline or nail polish on the tick is also a bad idea, since it can be hours before it dies from suffocation. As a precautionary step, some doctors also recommend taking antibiotics to ward off infection.
THE BOTTOM LINE Never remove a tick by burning it.