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Most ticks do not carry diseases, and most tick bites do not cause
serious health problems. But it is important to remove a tick as soon as you
find it. Removing the tick completely may help you avoid diseases such as
Lyme disease that the tick may pass on during feeding,
or a skin infection where it bit you.
When you return home from
areas where ticks might live, carefully examine your skin and scalp for ticks.
Check your pets, too.
Use fine-tipped tweezers to
remove a tick. If you don't have tweezers, put on gloves or cover your hands
with tissue paper, then use your fingers. Do not handle the tick with bare
After the tick has been removed, wash the area of the
tick bite with a lot of warm water and soap. A mild dishwashing soap, such as
Ivory, works well. Be sure to wash your hands well with soap and water
NOTE: If you can't remove a tick,
call your doctor.
You can use an antibiotic ointment, such as
polymyxin B sulfate (for example, Polysporin) or bacitracin. Put a little bit
of ointment on the wound. The ointment will keep the wound from sticking to a
bandage. If you get a skin rash or itching under the bandage, stop using the
ointment. The rash may mean you had an allergic reaction to the
Some ticks are so small it is hard to see them. This
makes it hard to tell if you have removed the tick's head. If you do not see
any obvious parts of the tick's head where it bit you, assume you have removed
the entire tick, but watch for
symptoms of a skin infection. Symptoms of infection
If you have a rash, headache, joint pain, fever, or
flu-like symptoms, this could mean you have an illness related to a tick bite.
If you have any of these symptoms, or symptoms of a skin infection, call your
Do not try to:
Smothering or burning a tick could make it release
fluid—which could be infected—into your body and increase your chance of
There are some tick-removal devices that you can buy.
If you are active outdoors in areas where there are a lot of ticks, you may
want to consider buying such a device.
Other Works Consulted
Gammons M, Salam G (2002). Tick removal.
American Family Physician, 66(4): 643–646. Also
available online: http://www.aafp.org/afp/20020815/643.html.
Gentile DA, Lange JE (2001). Tick-borne diseases. In
PS Auerbach, ed., Wilderness Medicine, 4th ed., pp.
769–806. St. Louis: Mosby.
October 14, 2011
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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