While most ticks are harmless, some carry disease and may transmit illness (eg, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever) to their host. Certain ticks can even inject venom that causes temporary paralysis in their host (called tick paralysis).
First Aid Guide
To remove an embedded tick:
- Wash your hands.
- Clean tweezers by boiling them or by pouring antiseptic solution (eg, isopropyl alcohol) over them.
- With tweezers, grasp the tick as close to its head or mouth as possible, and pull it straight out with a slow and steady motion. Be careful not to leave the head embedded in the skin, and make sure all parts of the tick are completely removed. Note: Be sure to not twist the tick body as you pull it out.
- Wash the area completely with soap and water.
The most important thing to consider regarding ticks is that prevention of tick bites is key. While in wooded areas, tall grass, or brush, consider doing the following:
- Wear long pants and long sleeves.
- Wear your socks over the outside of your pant legs.
- Tuck your shirt into your pants.
- Wear light-colored clothes so that ticks can easily be spotted.
- Spray your clothes and exposed skin with insect repellant.
- Frequently check your clothes and skin for ticks.
The site of the tick bite typically looks like a small, reddish area that may or may not be raised, similar to a mosquito bite.
Within days, weeks, or even months, tick bites may develop as a larger red ring (larger than 2 inches), often looking like a bull's-eye, indicating possible infection with Lyme disease (although the classic "bull's eye" lesion does not need to develop for a diagnosis of Lyme disease). In most cases, the infection can be eliminated with antibiotics, especially if treatment is started when symptoms are first noted.
- Signs of paralysis (numbness, tingling, weakness, and incoordination)
- Severe headache
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Trouble breathing
- There are any other serious symptoms
Additionally, illness caused by ticks may not develop for days, weeks, or even months after the bite occurred. Seek medical attention if flu-like symptoms occur within a day or a few days after the bite or if a pink to red bulls-eye-like ring around the bite develops.
Following a tick bite, keep a watchful eye for signs of infection, and seek medical care if any of these symptoms occur:
- A rash
- Increased pain
- Flu-like symptoms
- Discharge or red streaks from the site of the bite
Depending on the overall situation, your physician may decide, after weighing the risks and benefits, to prescribe a course of antibiotic treatment such as oral doxycycline.