Skip to Content

Tick Bite


What do I need to know about a tick bite?

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.

What are the signs and symptoms of a tick bite?

Normal symptoms of a tick bite:

  • Pain, itching, and swelling in the skin near the bite
  • Blisters and redness
Symptoms of a more serious illness, such as Lyme disease:
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Muscle weakness or trouble walking
  • Headache, fever, or chills
  • Rash
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite

How do I 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.

How are tick bites treated?

  • Apply ice: Ice decreases pain, itching, and swelling. Put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the bag with a towel. Put the bag on your bite for 15 to 20 minutes each hour or as directed by your healthcare provider.
  • Medicines:
    • 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.
    • 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.

How can I prevent tick bites?

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.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You cannot remove the tick.
  • The tick's head is stuck in the skin.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.