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The Easiest Method to Remove a Tick Is One That Doesn't Require Tweezers

Ticks are active through November in the US, which means you still need to be observant and prepared.

A tick on a leaf
It's still tick season.
Getty Images

This story is part of Try This, CNET's collection of simple tips to improve your life, fast.

Late summer may mean that stores are already pushing sweaters and pumpkins, but unfortunately, it's still prime tick season. In fact, ticks are still active through November in the US, so it's important to remain vigilant the next few months.

Depending on where you live, you'll need to check yourself, your family members and your pets for ticks after spending time outdoors until winter. 

Ticks can sometimes carry illnesses, such as Lyme disease -- so not finding them can have serious consequences. And if you accidentally break off part of the tick while trying to remove it, it can still transmit its illness and the bite can also get infected.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using fine-tipped tweezers for removing ticks. But what if you don't have any handy?

I discovered a little-known tip some years ago, and it forever changed how I remove the little biters. Here's how to remove ticks quickly, easily and safely -- if you don't have or can't find tweezers. (We've also got tips for how to protect your pets from ticks this season.) 

This easy Q-Tip trick will remove a tick quickly

Row of five Q tips on yellow background

Yes, you can remove a tick with a cotton swab.

Suchart Doyemah/EyeEm/Getty Images

Folk methods for removing ticks are usually bunk for one of a few reasons. Either they aim to induce the tick to detach with time -- whereas you should remove ticks immediately to minimize chances of disease transmission -- or they risk injuring the person or animal getting bitten by the tick. (Fire burns skin as well as ticks, after all.)

But this method is quick and harmless. All you need is a cotton swab.

When you locate an attached tick, immediately grab a cotton swab, and gently twirl tight circles around the wound, lightly pulling at the tick. The goal here is not to pull the tick free, but to cause it to release and latch onto the swab. It should happen within moments.

I've removed many ticks this way, and it is invariably quick and painless. What's more, you have virtually no risk of leaving mouth pieces in the wound, since the tick detaches itself.

And if something goes wrong, you can always still run out to the store and get some tweezers, as the CDC recommends.

Once you dispose of the tick, you can clean the bite with soap and water or alcohol. And if you're worried about disease transmission, follow up with these steps.

For other helpful tips related to the outdoors, here's what you should know about using weed killer safely around your pets and five inexpensive ways to give your patio a tech upgrade

More hacks to try

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.