Most tick bites cause only minor injury. But some ticks may transmit bacteria that cause illnesses, such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

To take care of a tick bite

  • Remove the tick promptly and carefully. Use tweezers to grasp the tick near its head or mouth and pull gently to remove the whole tick without crushing it. Other methods — such as applying petroleum jelly, fingernail polish, rubbing alcohol or a hot match — aren't recommended.
  • If possible, seal the tick in a container. Put the container in a freezer. Your doctor may want to see the tick if you develop signs or symptoms of illness after a tick bite.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water. Also wash the area around the tick bite.

When to seek emergency care

Call 911 or your local emergency number if you develop:

  • A severe headache
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Paralysis
  • Heart palpitations

When to contact your doctor

  • You aren't able to completely remove the tick. The longer the tick remains attached to your skin, the greater your risk of getting a disease from it.
  • The rash gets bigger. A small red bump may appear at the site of the tick bite. This is normal. But if it develops into a larger rash, perhaps with a bull's-eye pattern, it may indicate Lyme disease. Also consult your doctor if signs and symptoms disappear because you may still be at risk of the disease. Your risk of contracting a disease from a tick bite depends on where you live or travel to, how much time you spend outside in woody and grassy areas, and how well you protect yourself.
  • You develop flu-like signs and symptoms. Fever, chills, fatigue, body aches and a headache may accompany the rash.
  • You think the bite site is infected. Signs and symptoms include redness or oozing.

If possible, bring the tick with you to your doctor's appointment.

Dec. 13, 2014