Do you know what to do if you are bitten by a tick? The following tips will help you know exactly what to do to minimize the risk of infection and also help you catch any potential infection early on for best treatment outcomes. Quick treatment is key to recovery!
Medical disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, nor do I want to be. Consult your doctor for any specific concerns you may have about ticks and tick bites.
What to Do if You are Bitten by a Tick
If you are hiking, camping, or just spending time outdoors, it is important to do tick checks on everyone in your family. Ticks can transmit devastating illnesses to humans and animals, so tick checks are important any time you spend time outdoors. If you do find a tick attached during your check, here are the steps you should take. (If you’re looking for natural ways to prevent tick bites, this post might help.)
First, it’s very important that you don’t panic! Not all types of ticks cause disease (primarily the very small deer tick). In fact, according to Science News, fewer than 5% of tick bites lead to any illness at all. Stay calm and understand that most tick bites are gross, but not necessarily dangerous. However, given the severity of many tick borne illnesses, it’s important to take the following precautions anyway.
First, remove the tick properly
Tick removal is not as simple as just grabbing it and pulling. In order to lessen the chances of the tick releasing more potential illness or parasites, get a pair of tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the head as possible. With a straight out and up motion, pull the tick out without twisting it. If you leave the head, that’s OK. You can try to grab it after, but if it won’t come out, don’t ‘fish’ for it as this can lead to infection. Your body will push it out on its own.
Clean the skin around the tick bite properly
Once you’ve removed the tick, it’s important to clean the area properly. Using an antibacterial soap, clean the area well. This is important to ward off skin infections. Don’t listen to old wives tales about how to remove the tick. Trying to drown the tick with soap, rubbing alcohol, or lotion to get it to un-attach itself will not work. Also, it goes without saying that holding a match to burn the tick off your skin is a bad idea. Both of these methods are not only ineffective, but can actually make the tick spill more saliva into your body. Since saliva is what causes the infection in the first place, it’s important to minimize how much is transmitted into your blood stream.
Decide what to do with the tick: get rid of it or keep it.
To dispose of the tick
If you just want to get rid of the tick, it’s recommended to flush it down the toilet. After you flush it, verify that it goes down and keep flushing until it is GONE.
To keep the tick for testing
Instead of flushing the tick, though, I recommend keeping it as you might want to have it tested. This is especially important if your tick bite happens to develop the bull’s eye rash or you start feeling poorly shortly after the tick bite. Some places, like the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, will test your tick for free if you fill out their form and mail in the tick. You can find more free labs by Googling ‘free tick testing.’ If you decide to keep the tick, put it in a ziplock baggie and then put the baggie in your freezer. You might want to label the baggie.
Watch for signs of illness or infection
Watch the area of the bite over the next couple of days for signs of infection or illness. Tick borne illnesses often carry symptoms such as fever, severe fatigue, headache and body aches. Often, but not always, there is a bulls-eye shaped rash at the site of the bite in Lyme disease. Watch for any signs of rash at all by drawing a circle around the bite spot so you will remember where it was. Unfortunately, the bulls-eye rash is not always totally obvious, so be vigilant when observing the body after a tick bite.
Be tested by a doctor if you are concerned
If you are concerned, make sure to see your doctor right away and ask for the Elisa and Western Blot tests. These two tests are the most common tests used to determine tick borne illnesses. However, they can have false negatives and sometimes one might be positive when the other is negative. Most people think only Lyme Disease is caused by ticks, but there are other tick borne illnesses as well. It’s important that your doctor considers more than just Lyme when examining you.
Get a second opinion if you don’t feel you have been heard
Tick borne illnesses are not something every doctor is educated in and some doctors don’t take them as seriously as they could. Make sure to seek a second opinion if you feel your voice was not heard. You can look for a LLMD (Lyme Literate Medical Doctor) to answer questions and for further testing. To find a LLMD in your area, visit the International Lyme & Associated Diseases Society website.
Are you concerned about tick bites? Make sure you read this post on natural ways to prevent tick bites too.