Removing a tick doesn’t always go exactly as planned. It can seem like you’re pulling the tick out perfectly, and out of nowhere the tick’s head and mouth break off in your skin. You try to pull the head out with tweezers and work it free with a sharp needle, but the head won’t break free from its hold. What do you do now? Should you give up trying to remove the tick’s head and hope for the best?
Will A Tick Head Eventually Come Out? Yes a ticks head will come out on its own, but you should always try to remove the head. Leaving a ticks head in your skin won’t increase your chance of catching a tickborne illness, but it increases your risk of infection. Clean the affected area with soap and water, rubbing alcohol, apply antibiotic creams like Neosporin, and throw on a Band-Aid.
Cleaning out the bite should significantly reduce the risk of infection, but you should still keep an eye on the wound. Go to a doctor for antibiotics at the first sign of infection. You may be dealing with Lyme Disease and other tickborne illnesses from the bite, so you need to be extremely careful with any tick bite.
In the rest of this post I’ll explain how tick heads come out naturally, and explain how to remove a ticks head if it breaks off in your skin. You don’t want to risk infection by leaving a ticks head in your skin so make sure you scroll down to the section on removing a ticks head.
Will A Tick Head Come Out On It’s Own?
I run into a lot of ticks working outside everyday. Most of the time I don’t have any trouble pulling out a tick, but I occasionally run into problems. Maybe my grips a little bit off, I suddenly jerk, or sometimes it seems like everything going right and the tick’s head breaks off for no reason whatsoever.
There’s just no way to know if a tick will come off intact without trying it out. Ticks are pesky little critters and you never know when their heads will get left behind in your skin. A full grown tick is only about 1/8 of an inch long and their heads make up about 5% of their body. It’s not surprising that they snap off with a little bit of misapplied pressure.
Look at the picture of a broken off ticks head in the picture above. A ticks head likes like a tiny black or brown spot about the size of a grain of salt in the middle of the bite area. I tried to blow up the image, but it’s so tiny that you can barely see it in the picture.
You might want to check out my post explaining what the head of a tick looks like for more info.
Trying to pick and pull a ticks head out of your skin can be a serious challenge. They have mouths (aka hyposteme) that look like a barbed wire spear grabbing onto your skin. It’s like trying to pull a hook out of a fishes mouth. You can pull, but it just digs deeper into the skin until it rips through.
What if you can’t get a ticks head and mouth out of your skin? Will a tick head come out on it’s own? Yes a tick’s head will eventually come out. The skin will slowly start to heal around the bite mark pushing at the head from below squeezing out the head.
Why Should I Remove A Tick Head?
A ticks head will come out on its own naturally, but you should still try to remove the head. Leaving in the head will increase your chance of infection at the bite mark. Ticks feed off of a wide range of animals so you never know what kind of germs are lying on a ticks head.
Ticks feed on anything that has blood. That could be a human, but we’re not their usual food source. Most of the time their feeding on the blood of deer, opossums, raccoons, dogs, rodents, birds, and even reptiles. You never know what kind of disease a tick could be carrying.
Removing a ticks body within 36 hours will prevent the spread of tickborne illness like Lyme Disease, but who knows what they’re carrying on their body. Leaving a ticks head in your skin will significantly increase you chance of infection.
That’s why you should always try to remove every piece of the tick and clean out the wound afterwards. It’s not a huge deal if you can’t get out the head, but you need to pay special attention to the bite. Clean out the wound and watch for signs of infection.
Start by washing the wound with soap and water, sanitize with rubbing alcohol, apply Neosporin to prevent infection, and throw on a Band-Aid. That will most likely prevent infection, but you still need to pay attention to the wound. Go to a doctor for antibiotics if you get a rash, fever, redness, swelling, nausea, headache, chills, or muscle/joint pain.
Removing A Tick The Right Way
Removing a tick is a fairly straightforward process. All you need is a pair of sharp pointed tweezers or a tick removal tool. Using a tick removal tool like the Tick Ease Tweezers (pictured above) will significantly increase your chance of having a complete pull.
One side has a pry bar that wraps around the ticks body for even pressure and the other side has sharp tweezers for pulling out leftover pieces. Just push the tool close to your skin under the ticks body and pop it out. It’s so simple that I don’t see how anybody could screw it up.
Unfortunately, most people don’t have tick removal tools so they’re stuck using regular tweezers. That’s why I aimed my towards pulling a tick out with tweezers. Here’s how to remove a tick to prevent breaking off the head.
- Clean Your Tweezers: Sterilize your tweezers by dipping them in rubbing alcohol or wiping them down with alcohol wipes.
- Grab The Tick: Use your tweezers to grab the head of the tick. Go as close to your skin as possible.
- Pull Upward With Steady Pressure: Pull upward on the ticks head/body with steady even pressure. Don’t twist the tweezers or jerk the tick, because it can lead to the head and mouth parts breaking off in your skin. If the head breaks off you should try to remove it with tweezers or follow any of the removal methods below. If you can’t remove the mouth easily it’s best to leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- Clean The Area: After removing the tick thorougly clean the area with soap and water. Follow that up by wiping down the area with rubbing alcohol or an alcohol pad. Repeat the process everyday until the swelling and signs of inflammation go away. See a doctor if a rash forms or you notice signs of infection.
- Save The Tick: Never crush a tick with your fingers. Place the tick in rubbing alcohol to instantly kill it (ticks can survive in water). Store the tick in an airtight container like a prescription pill bottle or wrap it in tape. The CDC recommends keeping ticks for 30 days so they can be tested if you run into complications.
Following those directions will prevent head breakoffs in most cases, but there’s always exceptions. In the next section I’ll explain how to remove an embedded tick head from your skin.
Removing A Broken Off Tick Head
A ticks mouth really digs deep into your skin so they can be a serious pain to remove. I recommend treating the ticks head like you’re trying to remove a splinter. You need to dig at the head with a needle, knife, or any other sharp object to loosen the grip and then pull out the head with tweezers.
Pulling out an embedded tick head is easier said than done. You really need to dig at it working at the surrounding skin to loosen the hold. At that point you may be able to pull out the mouth, but I give it a 50/50 chance of working.
A lot of people recommend the Bug Bite Thing Suction Tool for removing tick heads. The “Bug Bite Thing” uses suction to pull on the ticks head drawing it out of your skin. It will loosen up the buried head and then you can use tweezers to hopefully grab any pieces still lodged in your skin.
You can also cut out the tick head using sterilized cuticle scissors, but that’s painful and could possibly lead to infection. If you can’t get the tick head out with conventional methods it’s better to just leave it in. The head should slowly work its way out of your skin within 2 weeks and you’ll be able to grab it with tweezers.
I go over removing tick heads in detail in this post so you might want to check it out.
Will A Tick Head Dissolve In Your Skin?
As your body slowly starts to heal the skin around the tick bite, it might look like the tick’s head is getting absorbed into the skin. I’ve even had scabs completely cover up the embedded tick head. Will a tick head dissolve in your skin?
A ticks head will not dissolve in your skin. Ticks have hard exoskeletons that take a long time to decompose. They may dry up in a few days without moisture, but the hard outer shell will still be in your skin.
I’m not saying that a ticks head will stay in your skin forever. As your skin scabs up and heals around the wound it will slowly push out the foreign object. The scab may even look like it’s swallowing the head. Don’t worry about that! Resist the urge to pull off the scab because it will eventually fall off and the skin under the bite will push the embedded mouth out towards the surface.
It will usually pull out on its own, but you may have to bring your tweezers back out and pull on the head. The barbs won’t be as deep in the skin and the head should easily pop out.
Does Using Epsom Salt Draw Out A Tick Head?
This is one of those old wives tales that won’t go away. Soaking a tick bite in Epsom salt won’t draw a ticks head out of your skin. It might soften the surrounding skin on the surface, but a ticks mouth is buried under the skin. Epsom salt won’t make the tick head come out any faster or dissolve it.
I’m not saying that epsom salt doesn’t do anything! It may help soften the skin a little bit on the surface, but you will still need to pick at the head and pull it out with tweezers. Giving your skin time to heal around the wound is the only surefire way to push out a ticks head.