By July 18, 2011

TickKey tick removal tool review

Over four years ago I reviewed the Tick Twister, a pair of plastic forks that help remove ticks from your skin. Sedagive? and I have been doing an increasing amount of hiking in Minnesota, which means we are subjected to an increasing number of ticks.

I was looking for another Tick Twister set to take along with us while leaving another set in our “dog drawer” in case one of our three canines picked up a hitchhiker.

I was surprised that I couldn’t find the Tick Twister, and I started looking around for alternatives.

The TickKey is apparently the new king of easy, safe tick removal. While physically larger than the Tick Twister, it is lightweight, flat, durable, and may be much safer to use than the Tick Twister.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/10455-2/IMG_7138.jpg

Construction

The TickKey seems pretty large for what it does. It measures 2 1/2″ long and 1 1/2″ wide. It is very flat and light, however. The TickKey is made out of anodized aluminum to allow for coloring and guard against rusting. The TickKey is designed to be put on a key chain (although I wouldn’t do this), so having something that is resistant to scratches and any rust resulting from scratches is a good idea.

The TickKey is shaped sort of like a tear drop. The tick removal part of the tool tapers down to a near point, with a slight bevel.

I didn’t weigh the TickKey, but it is very light. This isn’t important to me, but some of the first reviews I read of the TickKey online were on “ultralight” backpacking sites, where trekkers measure their gear down to the ounce. Apparently it’s light enough for these guys, so it’s just fine on your backpack or in a drawer. ;)

The TickKey is available in several colors. I bought orange and nickel. Red, purple, green, and blue are also available. I don’t know if there are other colors not offered on Amazon, but hopefully one of those will suit your fancy.

Usage

The TickKey comes with instructions, but it’s so easy to use you won’t really need them. Sedagive? attracted a visitor during one of our jaunts, so we’re going to show you how it’s done.

  1. Find the tick. It’s not often as easy as it sounds, especially when they are on the scalp or in non-visible areas like the back.
    http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/10459-2/IMG_1453.jpg
  2. Make sure you can read “TickKey” stamped on the, uh, TickKey. The TickKey has to be “up” correctly in order to work. The easiest way to remember what side is up is if you can read “TickKey.” The TickKey also says “this side up” but the type is kind of small and I think the product name is easier to read, especially for aging eyes or in lower light.
  3. Place the opening of the TickKey over the tick. As you can see, the opening is more than large enough for a deer tick, but has also worked on larger wood ticks on my dogs.
    http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/10453-2/IMG_1454.jpg
  4. Pull the tick away from the skin. The official directions and the usage videos on YouTube all differ on what “away from the skin” means, directionally. Does that mean pull towards the head, or towards the rear of the tick? Some videos show pulling towards the side of the tick. It doesn’t seem to matter for tick removal — consider it “do whatever works best.”

    http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/10450-2/IMG_1455.jpg

  5. Store or destroy the tick. We keep our ticks in case someone in the house starts to show flu-like symptoms or the “bulls-eye” rash associated with Lyme’s disease.
  6. Disinfect the TickKey. If you’re outside you may not have the means to clean your TickKey right away, but in general you want to disinfect it with alcohol or similar.
  7. On to the next one. Repeat as necessary. Sedagive? and I brushed off or removed almost a dozen ticks from one outing, so keep looking.

An important thing to note about the way the TickKey is designed to be used. The Tick Twister, which I previously used and thought was great, is apparently not the safest way to remove a tick. According to some, twisting the tick may freak it out, causing it to vomit its bacteria-laden meal back into your bloodstream and increasing your chances of getting a tick-borne illness. It makes sense that pulling the tick out instead of twisting it would cause less stress, but I don’t know how much less blood-puke you’ll get with one method versus the other.

Conclusion

At about $6, the Tick Key is durable, lightweight, and works well. I wish it were smaller — there’s no reason for such a large opening for ticks, and the device seems unnecessarily long — but it’s a minor complaint.

I suggest picking up at least one Tick Key if you have pets that go outside, or if you stride out into meatspace yourself.

Strongly recommended

PurpleOrangeBlueGreenRedNickle / Pewter

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