Warmer days usually mean more time outdoors. Along with spending more time in the garden come nagging worries about ticks and what to do if you find one on your body.
According to Sumathi Reddy in the WSJ, “Get it off pronto.”
To infect you with Lyme disease, a tick must bite and attach to your skin, typically for at least 24 hours.
Take care removing a tick. In some cases, you should call your doctor after you take it off.
Lyme disease is especially common in the Northeast and Midwest, transmitted by blacklegged ticks. They can transmit other pathogens that cause different diseases, too. Other types of ticks can transmit other diseases.
How to Remove a Tick
- Don’t twist it.
Twisting may cause its mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If that happens, try removing the mouth parts with tweezers. If you can’t, don’t worry, says Dr. Grace Marx, an infectious disease physician at the CDC division of vector-borne diseases. Germs are typically not present in the mouth parts so you can leave them and let the skin heal.
- Clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol.
- Don’t crush the tick.
- Flush it down the toilet or put it in alcohol or a sealed bag or container.
- Remove a tick if it is on your clothing (don’t worry as long as it hasn’t attached itself.)
Beware of One Tick
- Be Alert: One tick can be an indication there are others.
- If the tick was on you for a day or more—or if you don’t know how long it was on you—you can consult theCDC’s tick bite bot, an interactive tool that helps determine whether you need to seek healthcare.
When to Call the Doctor
If you have been bitten and live in an area where Lyme disease is common, such as New England or the Midwest, contact a healthcare provider as soon as possible to get a preventive dose of an antibiotic.
- Watch for symptoms for up to a month.
- See a healthcare provider if you develop a fever, rash, headache, fatigue, muscle pain, or joint swelling and pain. One telltale sign of Lyme disease is a bull’s-eye rash. Rashes can appear three to 30 days after a tick bite.
- Not everyone gets a rash or notices it, especially if it is on your scalp, back or other hard-to-see area, notes Marx, and it can be more difficult to spot on dark skin.
- Left untreated, Lyme disease can result in more serious symptoms. Some people develop Lyme arthritis or neurological disease weeks to months later.
It’s Not Just Lyme
Ticks can transmit diseases other than Lyme, so if you get sick after a tick bite, ask a doctor to run blood tests to help determine if you’ve been infected.
Too Ward Off Ticks
- Be careful in wooded areas or places with tall grass.
- Walk in the center of trails.
- Wear long sleeves and tuck pant cuffs into socks or shoes.
- Use insect repellents that contain ingredients such as DEET or picaridin.
- Treat clothes and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin, which can last several washings.
- Dry clothes on high heat for 10 minutes.
- Shower within two hours of coming inside. This reduces the risk by washing away unattached ticks.
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