How to Treat a Tick Bite
In many parts of the United States, ticks are a natural part of outdoor activities. Unfortunately, tick-borne illnesses are becoming more prevalent in many regions of the U.S. If you are unlucky enough to find a tick on yourself or a pet, here's what you should do.
Safe Tick Removal
You may have heard all sorts of suggestions for removing ticks, from burning them with matches to coating them with nail polish to smothering them with Vaseline. Unfortunately, these methods can actually increase the risk of infection since they often cause the tick's head to separate from its body. To safely remove a tick, you need to make sure the entire tick comes away intact.
What You Need
- Rubbing alcohol
The Steps to Removing a Tick
- Swab the area around the tick with rubbing alcohol.
- Use tweezers to grasp the tick near your skin as close to the head as possible.
- Pinch the tick tightly and slowly pull upward, being careful not to twist or jerk the tick.
- Clean the affected area again by wiping it with rubbing alcohol.
Once you remove the tick you can either dispose of it or have it tested for diseases. Certain state agencies offer tick testing, but if you aren't sure where to send the tick, ask your doctor.
Because ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other potentially serious infections, it's best to avoid them in the first place. You can reduce your risk of tick bites with the following tips:
- Stick to the trails. Since ticks live in grassy or wooded areas, you can reduce exposure by walking in the center of trails and avoiding high grass or thicket.
- Wear long clothing. You can protect yourself from tick bites by wearing long sleeved shirts and by tucking long pants into your boots. You will also have an easier time spotting ticks if you wear light-colored clothing.
- Use a bug repellent. Use caution when applying insect repellents and be sure to carefully follow product instructions. Products containing 10 percent or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) used on exposed skin will usually protect against ticks for about two hours. Products with 24 percent or higher DEET concentrations can offer extended protection of up to five hours.
- Apply permethrin on gear and clothing. Permethrin is an effective pesticide that kills mites and ticks. You can use it on clothing, boots and camping gear. Do not apply permethrin directly to your skin.
When to See a Doctor
In most cases, you won't need to see a doctor for a tick bite. That said, if you show any of the following symptoms in the days or weeks after removing a tick, you should schedule an appointment with a physician to test for a potential tick-borne infection.
- Joint or muscle aches
- Red, expanding rash
In some instances, a tick-borne illness can lead to serious issues, including nerve pain, numbness, heart palpitations, paralysis of facial muscles, shortness of breath, lightheadedness or fainting. Since early medical intervention can reduce the risk of long-term issues, it's important to see your doctor if you notice any strange symptoms following a tick bite. Since ticks can sometimes fall away without being noticed, you should also visit your doctor if you feel strange after spending time outdoors, even if you haven't found a tick on your body.
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