We'll get to why the match technique is a disaster waiting to happen later. First, here's what you should do, straight from a woman who's successfully removed "hundreds, if not more," ticks, National Parks Service supervisory park ranger Julena Campbell, based at New River Gorge National River in West Virginia.

Step 1 — Grab a set of tweezers. "There are some tick kits out there with specially designed tweezers, but any pair will do. You can even use your fingers in a pinch," says Campbell.

Step 2 — Use the tweezers to grab hold of the tick as close to the surface of your skin as possible. They go in head first (sorry, we know it's gross) and you want to grab as close to the head as you can to keep the body from breaking off and leaving the head in your skin when you yank it out (We tried to think of a less gross way to say that. We couldn't).

Step 3 — Once you've got a good grip on the tick, pull it straight up—no twisting. Don't go too fast either. You're pulling it, not plucking it. "Sometimes the tick will release and back out as soon as it feels some pressure," says Campbell. "Other times you have to tug a little." If you've tried a few times and it won't budge or you accidentally separated the head from the body and the head's still in there, head to your doctor's office so they can remove it. (You could damage your skin if you go digging around in there on your own.) Go quickly though— the longer the tick is in contact with your bloodstream, the more likely it is that it could spread something to you.

Step 4 — Once the tick is out, wash the area with an antiseptic soap or alcohol wipe to prevent infection. Then, resist the urge to smush that sucker or flush it down the toilet. "Save it, either by putting it in a small container with some alcohol solution or putting it in between two clear pieces of tape," says Campbell. Then write down the date you pulled it off and what part of your body it was on. Reason being, if you start to develop flu-like symptoms, a rash or joint pain, experts can tell what kind of illness you might have contracted based on the type of tick that bit you. Lyme disease, for example, is carried by blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, while Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is spread by American dog and brown dog ticks along with Rocky Mountain wood ticks. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a map of what types of ticks are likely in your area, here.)

Don't Try These at Home (seriously though—don't)

Bad Idea #1 — The Lighting-the-Tick-on-Fire-With-a-Match Trick
Somewhere along the way, someone decided that ticks must either be afraid of fire or that the heat would kill them and make them easier to remove. "I haven't tried it, but I wouldn't try it," says Campbell. "There's no good reason to have an open flame that close to your skin, not even a tick."

Bad Idea #2 — Trying to Smother the Thing Before You Remove It
Dousing an attached tick with petroleum jelly or nail polish before trying to pull it off (both methods we may or may not have tried), aren't just ineffective—they could be harmful. "The tick is going to die on your body, but it's still in contact with your blood, so you're just giving it more chances to pass you something," says Campbell. You don't need to do anything to the tick before you grab the tweezers. "The more you futz with it, the easier you could break off the head," she says. And nobody wants that.

How to Not Get Ticks in the First Place
Fashionistas, look away. The trick to not getting ticks, according to Campbell, is wearing light-colored pants and socks, then pulling your socks up over the bottoms of your pants. The light colors let you spot ticks easily and the socks-over-pants trick keeps your legs off-limits. If you're in an area with clear trails, stick to them. Ticks are hanging out on grasses and shrubs in other areas, just waiting for you to walk past. Once inside, do the tick-check, looking in the dark, moist or crevice-y areas they like to hide, like the backs of your knees, inside of your elbows, armpits, groin and your head.


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