Tick bites: First aid

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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.

  • 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.

Call 911 or your local emergency number if you develop:

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