What To Do After a Tick Bite: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you’ve been bitten by a tick, careful tick removal is the first step. Here’s how to remove a tick safely and when to see a doctor after a tick bite.
Tick Bites: Prevention is the Best Cure
Tick bites and the illnesses they can cause are on the rise. Vector-borne diseases, including those caused by tick bites, have tripled between 2004 and 2016. Of these illnesses, 75% are caused by ticks. Ticks are present in every state in the United States and are most prevalent during the warmer months of spring, summer, and fall.
In order to cause infection, a tick must embed in your skin. They can stay for several days, feasting on your blood. The longer a tick stays embedded, the more likely it is to spread disease and cause illness. While Lyme disease is the most prevalent tick-borne illness in the U.S., there are several other tick-related illnesses than can be quite serious.
As with many illnesses, prevention is the best cure. Let’s explore tick prevention in humans:
- Limit exposure: Avoid areas where ticks are prevalent. Limit your exposure to tall grass by walking in the center of hiking trails. Clear brush, dead leaves, and tall grasses in your yard. Mow your lawn frequently.
- Pre-treat your outdoor clothing, gear, and skin: Use permethrin, an insecticide that kills ticks on contact, on your gear and clothing. Sprays and dips will be effective through multiple washings and for up to two weeks. Apply tick repellent to your skin; DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon or eucalyptus are effective preventatives.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into your socks. Ticks like to crawl up feet and legs, looking for a place to attach to your skin.
- After being outside, check yourself and your pets for ticks. Wash your clothing and yourself within two hours of being outside.
Tick Borne Illness Symptoms and How to Remove a Tick
Tick bites don’t usually hurt and are so small you may not easily see them. If you suspect you’ve been exposed to ticks, check your body for what might look like a fleck of dirt or a small hard bump. Here’s where to look:
- In hair and around hairline
- In and around ears
- Underarms and back of neck
- Bellybutton and waist
- Groin, between legs, backs of knees, and between toes
Ticks like to embed in warm, moist places on your body. The longer they’re embedded, the more likely they are to transmit illness so it’s essential to quickly remove them. Here’s what to do after a tick bite and how to safely remove the tick from your skin:
- Wear gloves and use fine-pointed tweezers. Grasp where the tick’s mouth and head have attached to the skin and gently pull away until it releases. Be sure to remove the head and mouth of the tick.
- Do not handle the tick. If you want to take the tick to your doctor for analysis, place it in a covered container or zip lock bag. Otherwise, dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet.
- Wash the bite area, your hands, and the tweezers with soap and use alcohol to disinfect.
- Do not try to remove the tick by squeezing it since the tick may react by regurgitating infection into the bite. Do not apply Vaseline or hold a lighted match to the tick. These are not effective ways to remove ticks from your skin and can make things worse.
Tick bites are associated with several illnesses other than Lyme disease, which is responsible for around 300,000 infections a year. Powassan virus, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis are on the rise and can cause flu-like symptoms, rash, fatigue, and diarrhea.
When to See a Doctor for a Tick Bite: American Family Care
Not all tick bites will result in illness, but sometimes what to do after a tick bite is seek medical attention. If you’ve been bitten by a tick, watch the bite area for 30 days. Check for signs of a rash, fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint swelling and pain, as these can all indicate a serious infection has set in. If you can’t remove the head and mouth of the tick or see red streaks or yellow oozing from the tick bite, seek medical care.
American Family Care is family urgent care designed to treat your family efficiently and conveniently. We provide primary and urgent care services without an appointment or referral from your primary care doctor. If you suspect you’ve been bitten by a tick, walk in and receive care for a fraction of the cost of an emergency room visit.
Find a location and get the treatment you need at American Family Care.