Here’s How to Tell If a Tick Head Is Still in Your Skin, According to Doctors

And how to safely remove all of it ASAP.

digital collage showing closeup of legs and a line drawing of a tick
If a tick head is still in your skin, you’ll want to remove it carefully.Photo by Karyme França from Pexels / Tick drawing by Hein Nouwens via Getty Images / Design by Amanda K Bailey

You’re out hiking, breathing in the fresh air, taking in the sounds of nature—ticks are the furthest thing from your mind. That is until you see a brown tick butt sticking out from your skin. Maybe you immediately rip it off, only to wonder, How can I tell if a tick head is still in my skin?

If this is you, don’t panic. We‘ve got answers ahead. But first, let’s talk about ticks. We’re seeing an uptick in these tiny, insect-like parasites that feed off people and warm-blooded animals due to the growing populations of two of their favorite hosts: deer and mice. That may be good for ticks—they definitely have their place in a healthy, natural ecosystem—but that healthy place is not on your body. After all, ticks can transmit pathogens when they latch onto you. Over the past ten years, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, there has been a surge in Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, many of which can cause severe complications if they aren’t diagnosed and treated.  (See link for article)



  • An attached tick typically stays put for anywhere from 3 days to two weeks. The longer it is attached, the greater your risk for infection, so getting it off safely and promptly is important.
  • While the article recommends the CDC’s method of using tweezers for tick removal, I recommend a special tick removal device.  Go here for a review of products. Some can even be put on your key-chain which is handy in a pinch.
  • It’s important to NOT squeeze the tick or crush it as the fluids could transmit infection.
  • Some states offer free tick testing.  You can save the tick and have it tested for pathogens.  Wisconsin does not have such a service, which is really unfortunate, but tick testing is not without error.
  • Dermatologists recommend using a magnifying glass to make sure you haven’t left any body parts.  If the skin is firm, red, irritated, and has a lump, the tick may be embedded deeper.  You may need a dermagologist to surgically remove it with a punch biopsy tool.
  • The dermatologist states that “most tick bite end up being harmless.”  Where he derives this is beyond me.  Take each and every tick bite as seriously as a heart attack.  This crud can derail your life.
  • He also states you don’t need to call your doctor right away.  I COMPLETELY DISAGREE.  Call!  Immediately!  Get on prophylactic antibiotics/antimicrobials asap.  The risk of a life-debilitating illness just isn’t worth it.  Do NOT take the “wait and see approach.”
  • I highly recommend the article: Help! I Got Bit By a Tick!  What Do I do?
  • For prevention:
  • Excellent Resource on steps to take if you are bitten by a tick:
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