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Mouthwash Kills Ticks on Contact

Mouthwash may kill ticks on contact, but dermatologists still recommend removing them with a firm and steady pull using tweezers. Do NOT burn a tick!
Mouthwash Kills Ticks on Contact

How should you remove ticks? Most people get really worried when they discover a tick burrowed into their skin. There are now so many tick-borne illnesses that we have almost lost count. There’s Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness), anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Powassan encephalitis and Q fever. When I was a kid my dad would hold a lit cigarette to the back end of the tick in the hopes that it would let go. That didn’t work but did almost burn me! One reader offered a somewhat similar approach using mouthwash. We think it’s a bad idea.

Q. Last summer I learned that antiseptic mouth rinse kills ticks immediately. When I found a tick, I used to remove it and put it into rubbing alcohol where it died after a minute or so. Once I had no alcohol, but my mouthwash was handy. I wet some toilet paper with it, laid it on the tick for a few seconds and, shazam! The tick released its nasty grip. I wiped it away with the paper.

Check it out. Be sure the active ingredients match those of Listerine blue or yellow. If you put a live tick into this solution, it dies in a couple of seconds.

A. Dermatologists advise using tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull steadily (no jerking or twisting) until it lets go. There are also special tools that make it easier to grasp the tick close to the skin so you are less likely to leave the mouth parts behind.

Other Non-Starter Tick Removal Strategies:

Putting alcohol or petroleum jelly on the tick is not recommended by health professionals. Neither is applying nail polish. Holding a hot match against the tick is just as bad as the hot end of a cigarette. Such strategies may stimulate the tick to release more nastiness into your body thereby increasing the risk for acquiring an infection.

A tick should not be handled with bare fingers, to prevent picking up the germs it may carry. Dropping it into rubbing alcohol or a mouthwash like Listerine that contains alcohol should kill it quickly. If you don’t have anything like that available, you can entomb the tick in transparent adhesive tape and dispose of it.

Wash your hands carefully after disposing of the tick. If you didn’t use disposable gloves to handle the tick, use rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Apply rubbing alcohol to the area of the bite as well.

Write the date you removed the tick on a calendar. If you develop any symptoms over the course of the next few days (fever, chills, aches, pains, headache, fatigue, rash, etc.) contact your health professional immediately! Never second guess a tick bite!

Share your comments about ticks below in the comment section.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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