How To Properly Remove A Tick
With a pair of fine point tweezers or a tick removal tool, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull outward with a slow, even force, pulling in the opposite direction to how the tick entered the skin.
DO NOT JERK OR TWIST THE TICK. This might tear the head and mouth parts from the tick's body and can push tick fluids directly into your skin or blood stream.
DO NOT USE YOUR FINGERS TO REMOVE THE TICK. Squeezing the tick could cause it to release the contents of its body into the wound. Remember, you can contract Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever simply by handling ticks and having their excretions absorbed through your skin.
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REMOVE THE TICK WITH CHEMICALS (such as nail polish remover, liquid soap, kerosene, oils, etc) OR BY HEATING IT WITH A MATCH. This can kill the tick before it disengages its mouthparts. It can also cause the tick to regurgitate its contents into the wound, increasing the likelihood of transmitting a number of diseases.
WASH THE TICK ATTACHMENT SITE. Use warm soapy water and/or rubbing alcohol. You can apply an antibiotic ointment to help protect the bite site from additional contamination and secondary infections.
SAVE THE TICK. If you want to send it for testing (not generally recommended) place it in a small sealed ziplock bag with a very slightly damp cotton ball (not wet). Keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to ship it. Remember- testing a tick does not guarantee the organisms in it will be detected, or that the infectious organisms were passed to you. NEVER wait for the tick test results to come back before being treated. Remember, the earlier the treatment the better!
OK, I WAS BITTEN- NOW WHAT?
DO NOT WAIT FOR A RASH OR SYMPTOMS TO APPEAR TO TAKE ACTION. Do NOT wait for a rash to appear! Less than 50% of people with Lyme report a rash, and less than 10% of children nationwide have one. Do NOT wait for the disease to spread throughout your body and for symptoms to appear before being treated. In highly endemic areas treating the tick bite as soon as possible may help reduce the incidence of contracting Lyme and other tick borne diseases. (See recommendations for treatment below.)
SAY NO TO THE OLD "ONE DOSE OF ANTIBIOTICS" TREATMENT. The "one dose of Doxycycline after a tick bite" theory, which some health care professionals once believed was curative, has not been proven or accepted to be an effective means of preventing Lyme or other tick borne diseases, or in reducing the number of reported cases. In fact, the old theory has been disproven by later studies. Remember- pathogens found in ticks can travel through the blood stream or skin and will spread throughout your body in a manner of hours or days.
IF ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER IS SUSPECTED TREAT IMMEDIATELY! Do not wait for test results and do not wait for a rash to appear. All major health care agencies recommend treating first and asking questions later if Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is even suspected. RMSF is not limited to the mountainous areas in the west as its name would imply. RMSF and other spotted fevers are found in most states in the USA. Five of those states- North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri- currently have the most reported cases. You do not need to be bitten by a tick to contract RMSF- simply handling ticks increases the risk of contracting the sometimes fatal disease.
ARE YOU THIS KIND OF TICK, OR THAT KIND OF TICK? Some medical professionals may still want to see the tick that bit you before prescribing antibiotic treatment. You need to know that it doesn't matter what kind (species) of tick got you or how long it was attached, or its percentage of engorgement to determine if you were potentially exposed to diseases. All species of ticks can carry one or more known disease organisms, especially in areas highly endemic for Lyme disease. Remember- Lyme disease isn't found "only" in deer ticks and RMSF isn't found "only" in lone star ticks, as some may still believe.
EARLY TREATMENT IS YOUR BEST DEFENSE! Lyme, Bartonella, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis, Mycoplasma and STARI are some of the many diseases ticks can carry and pass to humans and pets. Doxycycline, prescribed for an adequate length of time, is currently the preferred treatment (barring any contra-indicators, such as young age, allergy, etc) for adults. Doxycycline will address most of the known bacterial infections carried by ticks. (Babesiosis is not a bacterial infection, so it is one of the exceptions.)
NO ONE LIKES TO TAKE MEDICINE!
TAKE ALL OF YOUR PRESCRIBED MEDICATIONS. When taking doxycycline (and other antibiotics) be sure to complete the full course prescribed even if you are not feeling sick. You can ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can take your medication with food rather than on an empty stomach to avoid possible gastrointestinal symptoms. To help prevent a yeast infection and maintain good digestive health, taking a good quality pro-biotic during and after treatment has been reported to be beneficial.
CAUTIONARY ADVISE WHILE ON ANTIBIOTICS. Avoid sun exposure while being treated. Sunburns can occur very quickly while taking antibiotics and for an undetermined time after you've stopped taking them. Read all literature that comes with your prescribed medications. If you have any questions contact your pharmacist or doctor. You may want to avoid using calcium products (milk, cheese, supplements including Tums, Rolaids, etc) when taking your antibiotics as they have been reported to slightly decrease the ability of the antibiotic to be absorbed.
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS. New scientific evidence indicates Lyme disease may be sexually transmitted. Spirochetes that cause Lyme disease have been found in semen, the uterus, vaginal secretions, breast milk, blood, organs, brain, skin, muscles, tendons, eyes and most other body fluids and tissues. Additional precaution- Antibiotics may reduce the effectiveness of some birth control methods, so you may want to consider using additional precautions. Please check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions. Remember- the spirochetes that cause Lyme disease are similar to the ones that cause syphilis.
DO I HAVE TO HAVE A BLOOD TEST?
SAVE YOUR MONEY- TESTING IS NOT RECOMMENDED WITHIN 30 DAYS OF A TICK BITE. Tests for Lyme and some other tick borne diseases are known to not produce positive results immediately following a tick bite (unless you had prior exposure). It can take 4-6 weeks, for example, for someone to build up detectable levels of antibodies to Lyme disease that can be detected, rendering early test results useless. Additionally, in other stages of infection the tests have been determined to be highly inaccurate, producing many false-negatives. A Johns Hopkins study (2005) indicated approximately 75% of people with Lyme disease tested negative using the standard recommended testing methods. Treatment with antibiotics may affect test results. Remember- a negative test does NOT rule out a Lyme infection and there is no such thing as having a "borderline" or "slightly" positive test. Positive is positive, unless proven otherwise.
HOW TO TREAT. Please see information about treating tick bites HERE. You may want to print the treatment recommendations and take them with you to the doctor's office. The more you and your doctors know the better chance you have to kick Lyme disease before it kicks you!
Get It Right! Treat The Bite!