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Help: Bitten by a Tick

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Dear Dr. Sue: my daughter has a tick embedded on her back! EEK! I have removed it but I’m worried about Lyme disease.  Help! Signed: Tina

While many people worry about getting a disease after a tick bite, the actual risk of developing a tick-borne infection is really quite low. It also depends on the type of tick that bit you, the geographic area where you acquired the tick bite, and even how long the tick was attached to the skin.

Tick

Tick

First off, if you have been camping or in the woods etc., you should always check for ticks at the end of each day, this enables you to know that the tick has not been “feeding” for a lengthy period of time (which is important as longer attachment is required to pass infection).

If you find a tick, you need to remove it promptly and properly by using tweezers to grip the tick as close to the skin as possible.  Gently and firmly use steady pressure to pull the tick off. Do not try to squeeze or crush the tick as that may cause the tick to release their fluid which may contain infection causing organisms.

If you can identify some of the characteristics of the tick (size, color, flat or engorged) it will help determine if you need to be concerned about Lyme disease, which is not very common, even in endemic areas.

After the tick is removed, it is only necessary to wash the area with soap and water and observe for any signs of infection.

Remember, illness like Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, Lyme disease, and other tick born diseases are infrequent.  Specifically watch for symptoms over the next days including a rash that begins around the area of the bite, or the development of fever, joint pains, shortness of breath, vomiting, or a diffuse rash all over the body.

If any of these symptoms occur after a tick bite, I recommend you seek medical attention immediately.

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

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