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
- 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
- Tick bites. The Merck Manual Professional Edition. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries_poisoning/bites_and_stings/tick_bites.html?qt=tick bites&alt=sh. Accessed Sept. 29, 2014.
- What to do in a medical emergency: Bites and stings. American College of Emergency Physicians Foundation. http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/EmergencyManual/WhatToDoInMedicalEmergency/Default.aspx?id=210#spider_bites_and_scorpion_stings. Accessed Sept. 29, 2014.
- Tick removal. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html. Accessed Sept. 29, 2014.
- Symptoms of tickborne illness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/symptoms.html. Accessed Sept. 29, 2014.
- Millman M, ed., et al. Mayo Clinic Guide to Self-Care. 6th ed. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2010.
- Linden H. Evaluation of a tick bite for possible Lyme disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 2, 2014.