Ticks are small, insect-like creatures that live in woods and fields. They attach to you as you brush past bushes, plants, and grass. Once on you, ticks often move to a warm, moist location. They are often found in the armpits, groin, and hair. Ticks attach firmly to your skin and begin to draw blood for their meal. This process is painless.
Ticks can be fairly large — about the size of a pencil eraser. They can also be so small that they are very hard to see. Ticks can cause a number of health conditions. Some of these can be serious.
If a tick is attached to you, follow these steps to remove it:
- Grasp the tick close to its head or mouth with tweezers. Do not use your bare fingers. If needed, use a tissue or paper towel.
- Pull the tick straight out with a slow and steady motion. Avoid squeezing or crushing the tick. Be careful not to leave the head embedded in the skin.
- Clean the area well with soap and water. Also wash your hands thoroughly.
- Save the tick in a jar. Watch the person who was bitten carefully over the next week or two for indications of Lyme disease.
- If all parts of the tick cannot be removed, seek medical help such as at an urgent care center. Bring the tick in the jar to your doctor’s appointment.
- Do NOT try to burn the tick with a match or other hot object.
- Do NOT twist the tick when pulling it out.
- Do NOT try to kill, smother, or lubricate the tick with oil, alcohol, Vaseline, or similar material.
When to Visit a Medical Professional or Urgent Care Center
Call your doctor or visit an immediate care center such as Your Docs In if you have not been able to remove the entire tick. Also call if in the days following a tick bite you develop:
- A rash
- Flu-like symptoms, including fever and headache
- Joint pain or redness
- Swollen lymph nodes
Call 911 if you have any signs of:
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Increasingly severe headache which does not respond to medication
- Severe headache
- Trouble breathing
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection you get from the bite of an infected tick. The first symptom is usually a rash, which may look like a bull’s eye. As the infection spreads, you may have
- A fever
- A headache
- Muscle and joint aches
- A stiff neck
Lyme disease can be hard to diagnose because you may not have noticed a tick bite. Also, many of its symptoms are like those of the flu and other diseases. In the early stages, your health care provider will look at your symptoms and medical history, to figure out whether you have Lyme disease. Lab tests may help at this stage, but may not always give a clear answer. In the later stages of the disease, a different lab test can confirm whether you have it.
Antibiotics can cure most cases of Lyme disease. The sooner treatment begins, the quicker and more complete the recovery.
After treatment, some patients may still have muscle or joint aches and nervous system symptoms. This is called post-Lyme disease syndrome (PLDS). Long-term antibiotics have not been shown to help with PLDS. However, there are ways to help with the symptoms of PLDS, and most patients do get better with time.
Your Doc’s In maintains clinics for patients from infants to adults in Salisbury, Ocean City, Pocomoke (about 25 minutes north of Chincoteague) and in Easton.