Six steps: What to do when you find a tick on yourself, Ohio State Medical Center

Six steps: What to do when you find a tick on yourself

So you found a tick on your body or on someone else’s – maybe on your child or spouse. What to do next?

Follow these steps:

1. Remove the tick from your skin

If the tick is crawling on you but hasn’t bitten you, just carefully pick it up with tweezers or gloved hands. We’ll cover what to do with the tick later.

If the tick has bitten you and is attached to your skin, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible, says Glen Needham, PhD, an associate professor emeritus of entomology at The Ohio State University.

Try to grab its head instead of its body. Pull the tick away from the skin with steady, even pressure to avoid leaving the tick’s mouthparts in your skin.

Below: Watch Needham demonstrate how best to remove a tick from your skin.

Tick Removal from WildOhio on Vimeo.

2. Clean the bite location

Clean the area of the bite with soap and water, an iodine scrub or rubbing alcohol.

3. Dispose of or contain the tick

To get rid of a tick, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends flushing it down the toilet or wrapping it tightly in tape to throw away with the garbage.

You can also bring in the tick to show your doctor after a bite, says Diane Gorgas, MD, executive director of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Office of Global Health and a professor of emergency medicine at The Ohio State University.

“It’s not essential, though,” she says. “Most doctors aren’t routinely trained in tick identification.”

To hang onto the tick for identification later, submerge the tick in alcohol and place it in a sealed bag or other container.

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4. Identify the tick

If you’re unable to identify the tick yourself, other resources to contact are an Ohio State University extension office or your local health department.

“Rarely, a physician may opt to send a tick away for testing,” Gorgas says. “This can be done whether the tick is alive or dead.”

5. Observe the site of the tick bite

“Once you’ve removed the tick, watch the site of the bite and go to a doctor if you notice a localized rash, redness or swelling of the area,” Gorgas recommends.

“If the rash you develop is suggestive of either a local soft tissue infection (cellulitis) or Lyme disease, you’ll be prescribed antibiotics.”

6. See a doctor – if you need one

If you’re experiencing fever or chills, aches and pains, or a rash near the bite location, it’s time to see a doctor.

For more descriptions of telltale rashes in tick-borne diseases, see the CDC’s list of symptoms.

This information also will be helpful to your doctor, Gorgas says:

  • Your physical symptoms
  • Where you were when you were bitten
  • If you’re on any medications that could alter your immune system’s function, such as steroids or chemotherapy
  • If you have any medical conditions that could make you more susceptible to complications of infection (e.g. diabetes or HIV)

“The most significant risk factor for developing Lyme disease is knowing where in the country you were bitten – whether the area was endemic for Lyme disease or not,” Gorgas says.

Almost all Lyme disease cases in recent years have been reported in 14 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. Infected ticks have been found in states neighboring these, too.

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What to do when you’re bitten by a tick: 7 steps

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‘I didn’t think these Lyme disease carrying scum were native to P.E.I.’

When Logan Roche of Stratford, P.E.I. woke up one Monday morning two weeks ago with a «deer tick chewing on my leg,» he was not happy.

«I didn’t think these Lyme disease carrying scum were native to P.E.I.,» he wrote in a post on Facebook. «But there he was.»

P.E.I.’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison offered her tips for what anyone should do when bitten by a tick.

1. Don’t panic, you likely don’t have Lyme

While Roche said he was tempted to «walk around the house screaming obscenities and asking ‘Why me?'» Morrison said, there’s usually no need to panic over a tick bite.

Bug spray, long pants in tall grass, and the big one — check your skin when you go inside.

P.E.I. has only had one lab-confirmed case of Lyme disease from a deer tick — ever. That was back in 2012.

Last year Island doctors saw one lab-confirmed and three probable cases of Lyme, but those people had been exposed outside P.E.I., Morrison said.

There are several kinds of ticks, and only deer ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme, said Morrison. Not only are most ticks on P.E.I. not deer ticks, Morrison noted, «P.E.I. is not endemic for deer ticks with Lyme disease.»

Deer ticks require incubation of 24 to 36 hours to cause an infection — most people discover and remove them long before that deadline.

Additionally, the tick itself may or may not be infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme.

2. Carefully remove tick

The longer ticks are attached, the deeper they can burrow under skin and the greater the chances of infection.

Roche did the proper thing: he grabbed clean tweezers and gently pulled on the tick until it popped out.

«I just Googled ‘how to remove a tick’ because that’s how millennials solve all their problems,» he said.

Morrison has sent all P.E.I. health care providers an annual update on Lyme disease along with Health Canada’s guidelines for tick removal.

See also:  CDC - Parasites

«The whole goal is not to squash them,» noted Morrison, especially the head of the tick.

«You want to minimize the risk of having any potential organisms left in your body — that’s how you get Lyme disease.»

3. Save the tick

Save the tick in a baggie, pill bottle or plastic dish and label it with the date of the bite, and take it to your doctor who will send it off to a lab for testing, which can take up to a week.

4. Wash the area

Thoroughly wash the bite area and your hands with soap and water or disinfect with alcohol hand sanitizer.

5. Go to the doctor

Take the tick, and yourself, to the doctor.

They may offer you a prophylactic treatment of antibiotics, but if the tick has been attached for only a short time, Morrison stresses there is no need.

«He prescribed me a week worth of antibiotics,» said Roche of his doctor. «I saw my family doctor to get a second opinion on whether a one-week dose of antibiotics would be enough. They both agreed that it was an appropriate treatment.»

6. Be aware of Lyme symptoms

Symptoms of Lyme disease include an early «localized» infection at the site of the bite within three to 32 days.

If untreated, within three months the bacterium causing Lyme can spread in the bloodstream throughout the body, causing symptoms including fatigue, weakness, heart problems, neurological problems and more.

Late Lyme disease can last months or years, and symptoms include several types of arthritis, neurological problems with memory and concentration, and more.

7. Prevention is key

This tip should be a priority, said Morrison.

«Cover up if there’s a possibility of exposure,» she advised. «Closed-toed shoes, long-sleeve shirts and pants with legs tucked into socks» if you’re going to be in long grass or wooded areas. Wear light-coloured clothing and use bug spray too, she said.

«Daily full-body checks for ticks should be performed,» Morrison added.

Roche, who is a physical education teacher and likes to be active outdoors, said he’s definitely going to attempt better tick bite prevention.

«DEET bug spray, long pants in tall grass, and the big one — check your skin when you go inside,» said Roche. «Just use common sense, be aware, get outside and enjoy your life.»

Concerned about a tick you’ve found on a pet? Morrison notes many vet clinics are also accepting ticks for testing.

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