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Ticks are small spiderlike animals (arachnids) that
bite to fasten themselves onto the skin and feed on blood. Ticks live in the
fur and feathers of many birds and animals. Tick bites occur most often during
early spring to late summer and in areas where there are many wild animals and
Most ticks don't carry diseases, and most tick bites don't
cause serious health problems. But it is important to remove a tick as soon as
you find it. Removing the tick's body helps you avoid diseases the tick may
pass on during feeding. Removing the tick's head helps prevent an infection in
the skin where it bit you. See Home Treatment for the
best way to remove a tick.
Usually, removing the tick, washing the
site of the bite, and watching for signs of illness are all that is needed.
When you have a tick bite, it is important to determine whether you need a
tetanus shot to prevent
Some people may have an
allergic reaction to a tick bite. This reaction may be mild, with a few
annoying symptoms. In rare cases, a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) may occur.
Many of the
diseases ticks carry cause flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, nausea,
vomiting, and muscle aches. Symptoms may begin from 1 day to 3 weeks after the
tick bite. Sometimes a rash or sore appears along with the flu-like symptoms.
Common tick-borne diseases include:
Tick paralysis is a rare problem that may occur after
a tick bite. In some parts of the world, tick bites may cause other tick-borne
diseases, such as
South African tick-bite fever.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a
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Most ticks don't carry diseases, and most tick bites don't cause
serious health problems. The sooner
ticks are removed, the less likely they are to spread
Some ticks are so small that it is hard to see them. This makes it hard to
tell whether you have removed the tick's head. If you do not see any obvious
parts of the tick's head in the bite site, assume you have removed the entire
tick, but watch for
signs of a skin infection.
When you return home from areas where ticks might live,
carefully examine your skin and scalp for ticks. Check your pets, too.
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
To prevent tick bites:
For information on how to specifically prevent Lyme disease,
see the topic
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
December 23, 2011
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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