A tick bite is not usually dangerous, but it pays well to learn how to treat tick bites. This is because these common creatures, which live outdoors, find their way to our pets' skin as well as ours, and can cause symptoms of disease or infection. Ticks can move from their habitats in the grass, shrubs or trees to our skin when we go outdoors and bite to feed on our blood. They are not usually dangerous, but if serious symptoms occur, you may need immediate treatment.
Symptoms and Effects of Tick Bites
Most tick bites are harmless and do not produce any symptoms. However, if you develop an allergic reaction to a tick bite, you may experience swelling and pain on the bite site, rashes, blisters, or breathing difficulty.
Some ticks may carry diseases which can pass on to you when they bite. A tick-borne disease can cause symptoms, which may develop within a few weeks, including:
- Red spots or rashes
- Fever, chills
- Neck stiffness
- Muscle aches
- Joint pains
- Swollen lymph nodes
Seek medical help immediately if these serious symptoms occur.
Possible Problems Caused by Tick Bites
Tick-borne diseases may include:
- Lyme disease
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- Colorado tick fever
How to Treat Tick Bites
Ticks are sometimes so small that it is difficult to see if you have removed the head which is stuck to your skin. But even if you manage to remove the tick, watch out for skin infection.
1. Steps You Should Follow to Remove a Tick
- Remove the tick using fine-tipped tweezers or gloved fingers. Try to remove the tick by grabbing it near its mouth, which is stuck to your skin.
- Store the tick in a ziplock bag or jar and put in the freezer, in case you need to identify it later.
- Wash the bitten area with mild dishwashing soap and warm water.
- If the skin is irritated, apply topical antibiotic such as polymyxin B sulfate or bacitracin and cover with bandage.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after removing the tick.
Always remember to examine your pet and your skin for ticks whenever you return home from places where ticks may live.
2. Tips on Removing a Tick
- Do not touch ticks with your bare hands.
- Do not smother the tick with nail polish, petroleum jelly, gasoline or alcohol while it is attached to your skin, since it may cause infection.
- Do not attempt to burn ticks while it is still attached to the skin.
- Do not grab the tick on its swollen body, since you might squeeze its fluid into your body.
- Do not twist it, but instead, pull it straight out of the skin to avoid breaking off the head from the body.
3. Medications for Tick Bites
- Antibiotics. Antibiotics are usually prescribed when you get an infection from a tick bite. Continue to take the antibiotics even if your symptoms improve, until your doctor advises you to stop them.
- Skin protectants. These medicines (calamine lotion, zinc oxide) help to soothe red, itchy skin, and may prevent infection.
- Steroids. Oral steroids may be recommended if you develop a bad reaction to tick bites. They must be taken with a full stomach and must not be discontinued until advised by your doctor.
- Topical steroids. These over-the-counter medicines are rubbed into the skin to reduce itching and redness. They should not be used on skin areas that are scratched, cut, or infected.
- Antihistamines and local anesthetic. Antihistamines help reduce itching and swelling while local anesthetics reduce pain.
When to See a Doctor
Consult your doctor if these symptoms develop:
- Stiff neck
- Joint pain, inflammation
- Muscle ache
- Flu-like symptoms
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Light sensitivity (photosensitivity) to the skin or eyes
Bring the tick, if possible, to your doctor's office for identification.
Call 911 or a local emergency number if you experience:
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe headache
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
How to Prevent Tick Bites
Ticks may live in your lawn and in areas where grass and bushes grow. They may stick to your pet's skin or to your clothes and skin when you go outdoors. Here are some ways to prevent tick bites:
How to Do It
Wear protective clothes
Protect yourself by wearing a hat, long-sleeved shirts, pants, socks and boots. Prevent crawling ticks from going in through gaps in your clothes by tucking them in. Use light-colored clothes to make ticks easier to find.
Use an insect repellent
Apply insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin. But please avoid applying it on scratched, cut or irritated skin, or on a child's hands or face. Wash off with soap and water when you go indoors.
Use a bug spray on your clothes
Use bug spray with permethrin to kill ticks crawling on your clothes. Spray the top of boots, pant legs and the cuff of your sleeves. Wash your outdoor clothes as soon as possible.
Check yourself for ticks
Carefully check your clothes, hairline, neck and skin often when you are outdoors. Likewise, check your children and pets. Remove ticks from your pets in the same manner as you would remove them from your skin.
Reduce ticks in your backyard
Clean shady and moist areas where ticks like to live. Keep your grass short, cut overgrown branches, clear out piles of leaves and stack the firewood in dry, sunny areas.
You may watch the video below to learn the signs, prevention as well as treatment of tick bites: