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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Most tick bites are not dangerous, but ticks can pass disease or infection when they bite. A tick will bite and then move further into the skin, where it stays to feed on blood. Ticks need to be removed quickly. Serious symptoms of a tick bite need immediate treatment.
- Antibiotics: Healthcare providers may give you antibiotics if you get an infection from the tick bite. Do not stop taking the antibiotics until you talk to your healthcare provider, even if you feel better.
- Antihistamines: Antihistamines decrease swelling and itching.
- Local anesthetic: This medicine helps to decrease pain and itching.
- Skin protectant: Skin protectants help soothe itchy, red skin. They may also keep out infection. Some examples of these medicines are calamine and zinc oxide.
- Steroids: You may need to take steroids if you have a very bad reaction to your tick bite. Take steroids with food to keep your stomach from becoming upset from the medicine. Do not stop taking this medicine until you talk to your healthcare provider.
- Topical steroids: A topical steroid is medicine that you rub into your skin to decrease redness and itching. Topical steroids are available without a doctor's order. Do not use this medicine on areas of skin that are cut, scratched, or infected.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
How to remove a tick:
Ticks must be removed as soon as possible to help prevent them from passing disease or infection. You are less likely to get sick from a tick bite if you remove the tick within 24 hours. Do the following to remove a tick:
- Soak a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol, or use a disposable alcohol wipe. Gently clean the skin around the tick.
- Grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible. Pull the tick straight up and out with tweezers, or with fingertips protected by a tissue or gloves. Do not touch the tick with your bare hands.
- Pull gently until the tick lets go. Do not twist or jerk the tick suddenly, because this may break off the tick's head or mouth parts. You can buy a special V-shaped device that help lift ticks out safely. Do not leave any part of the tick in your skin.
- Do not crush or squeeze the tick since its body may be infected with germs. Flush the tick down the toilet.
- Do not put a hot match, petroleum jelly, or fingernail polish on the tick. This does not help and may be dangerous.
- After the tick is removed, clean the area of the bite with rubbing alcohol. Then wash your hands with soap and water.
Care for your tick bite:
Apply ice to the bite mark to help to decrease pain, itching and swelling. Put ice in a plastic bag. Cover the bag with a towel. Put the bag on your bite for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed by your healthcare provider. Try not to scratch the bite.
Prevent another tick bite:
Ticks live in areas covered by brush and grass. They may even be found in your lawn if you live in certain areas. Outdoor pets can carry ticks inside the house. Ticks can grab onto you or your clothes when you walk by grass or brush. If you go into areas that contain many trees, tall grasses, and underbrush, do the following:
- Wear protective clothing: Wear pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck your pants into your socks or boots. Tuck in your shirt. Wear sleeves that fit close to the skin at your wrists and neck. This will help prevent ticks from crawling through gaps in your clothing and onto your skin. Wear a hat in areas with trees. Wear light-colored clothing to make finding ticks easier.
- Use insect repellant: Put insect repellent on skin that is showing. The insect repellant should contain DEET. Do not put insect repellant on skin that is cut, scratched, or irritated. Do not put insect repellent on a child's face or hands. Always use soap and water to wash the insect repellant off as soon as possible once you are indoors.
- Spray insect repellant onto your clothes: Use permethrin spray. This spray kills ticks that crawl on your clothing. Be sure to spray the tops of your boots, bottom of pant legs, and sleeve cuffs. As soon as possible, wash and dry clothing that has been worn outdoors.
- Check for ticks often: Check your clothing, hair, and skin for ticks every 2 to 3 hours while you are outdoors. Carefully check the hairline, armpits, neck, and waist. Check your pets and children for ticks. Remove ticks from pets the same way as you remove them from people.
- Decrease the risk of ticks in your yard: Ticks like to live in shady, moist areas. Mow your lawn regularly to keep the grass short. Trim the grass around birdbaths and fences. Cut branches that are overgrown and take them out of the yard. Clear out leaf piles. Stack firewood in a dry, sunny area.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You cannot remove the tick.
- The tick's head is stuck in the skin.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You get a fever, rash, headache, or muscle or joint pains within 1 month of a tick bite. These may be signs of a more serious disease.
- You are having trouble walking or moving your legs.
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.