The one question I’m often asked is,
I was bitten by a tick.
(or might have been)
What do I do?
First, as hard as it may seem- DO NOT PANIC! But don’t ignore it either!
You are aware that you may have been bitten by a tick and you’re looking for answers as to what your next step should be. That is a huge and very important step!
If you see the tick on you…
Don’t try and remove it by yourself, especially if it is in a place that’s hard to reach. If someone is there to help you, great! If not, you can try and remove it. You might want to consider going to the doctor, so they can help you remove it.
How to remove a tick…
I’ve heard lots of myths, stories, and unique methods of how people remove ticks. Most recently, I read this article, “How not to remove a tick from a dog” that talked about how this couple’s “method of removal was similar to the napalm-fuelled, scorched-earth technique used by the U.S. army in the Vietnam War.”
The best way to remove a tick is: (and this is if you are comfortable removing it from yourself, a friend or your pet)
- Use a pointy tick removal tweezer
- Disinfect with rubbing alcohol
- Grab tick close to skin and use slow, steady motion to pull tick out
- Disinfect again
- Consider Tick Testing for infection
Watch this video on how to remove a tick >>>How To Remove A Tick
(This info is all from one of my favorite and informative sites, tickencounter.org! Check out the site to learn more!)
What if you don’t recall having a tick on you?
I never remember getting bitten by a tick- and I had been bitten on at least two separate occasions. This isn’t uncommon- many people do not remember getting bit by a tick or seeing it on them. This is one of several things that can make catching Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses tricky.
Know the signs and symptoms…
If you have no idea if you were bitten by a tick or not, that’s okay. To my surprise, there is still a debate on whether or not Lyme disease has been reported in all 50 states. If not, I believe it’s only a matter of time. But either way, you don’t have to be out in the woods, hiking, etc. to encounter a tick. I would not describe myself as a “woodsy” or “outdoorsy” person what-so-ever but no one is immune.
The early stages of Lyme disease is usually marked by one or more of the following symptoms:
- Chills and fever
- Muscle and joint pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A characteristic skin rash, called erythema migrans (EM) or a “bulls-eye rash”
*Symptoms may come and go and/or resolve themselves
Erythema Migrans (“Bulls-eye rash”)
Erythema migrans (EM) is a red circular patch that appears usually at the site of the tick 5 days to 1 month after the bite of an infected tick. The patch then expands, often to a large size. Sometimes many patches appear, varying in shape, depending on their location. Common sites are the knee, thigh, groin, trunk, and the armpits. The center of the rash may clear as it enlarges, resulting in a bulls-eye appearance. The rash may be warm, but it usually is not painful. Not all rashes that occur at the site of a tick bite are due to Lyme disease (i.e. an allergic reaction to tick saliva at the site of the bite which can be confused with the rash of Lyme disease). Allergic reactions to tick saliva usually occur within a few hours to a few days following the tick bite, but usually do not expand and normally disappear within a few days.
*The EM rash may not be your classic-looking “bulls-eye”- they don’t all look the same
*Not everyone gets the bulls-eye rash! Some may have a different rash or no rashes at all
Above is a picture and information featured on The TickEncounter’s general overview of Lyme disease. The CDC’s picture of an EM is this one:
Some symptoms and signs of Lyme disease may not appear until weeks, months, or years after a tick bite:
- Arthritis is most likely to appear as brief bouts of pain and swelling, usually in one or more large joints, especially the knees.
- Nervous system abnormalities can include numbness, pain, Bell’s palsy (facial paralysis which usually occurs on one side), and meningitis (fever, stiff neck, and severe headache).
- Less frequently, irregularities of the heart rhythm occur.
- In some persons the rash never forms; in some, the first and only sign of Lyme disease is arthritis, and in others, nervous system problems are the only evidence of the disease.
*There are A LOT of symptoms- not just the ones featured above- there are perhaps hundreds of different symptoms a person may or may not experience during all stages of Lyme disease*
I have some of these symptoms…
If you believe you have been bitten by a tick, start by going to your primary care doctor. Most likely they will draw some blood and run what is called the Western Blot and ELISA test. Just because you test negative doesn’t mean you do not have Lyme- unfortunately, the tests are not too accurate.
Whether your test is positive or negative…
There is a lab in California called IGeneX. They not only test for Lyme but other co-infections as well. They are more accurate than other labs! Visit their site for more information about sending blood to their lab (I hate to be the barer of bad news, but your insurance probably won’t cover it).
Make sure you have been tested for other tick-borne illnesses! Your doctor will most likely prescribe doxycycline for about one month, unless you are a child, then amoxicillin. The earlier it is caught and treated, the better the results. Depending on how your primary care doctor feels about Lyme disease, may influence your treatment. The most controversial issue surrounding Lyme disease is that many believe one month of antibiotics is not enough to kill the bacteria. I say the month of antibiotics is a great start, but search for a Lyme Literate Doctor (LLMD or LLD) as soon as possible! Whether your test is positive or negative, you do not want to take the chance of developing symptoms years later from a misdiagnosis or antibiotics not being enough.
Diagnosis of Lyme disease depends upon:
- Exposure to ticks, especially in areas where Lyme disease is known to occur. If you are bitten by a tick, always save it – correct indentification and testing can confirm the presence or absence of the Lyme disease spirochete within the tick.
- Symptoms and signs as described above.
- The results of blood tests used to determine whether the patient has antibodies to Lyme disease bacteria. These tests are most useful in later stages of illness.
- Consultation with a health care provider.
Treatment and prognosis
“Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics under the supervision of a physician. Several antibiotics are effective. Usually they are given by mouth but may be given intravenously in more severe cases. Patients treated in the early stages with antibiotics usually recover rapidly and completely. Most patients who are treated in later stages of the disease also respond well to antibiotics. In a few patients who are treated for Lyme disease, symptoms of persisting infection may continue, making additional antibiotic treatment necessary. Varying degrees of permanent damage to joints or the nervous system can develop in patients with late chronic Lyme disease. Typically these are patients in whom Lyme disease was unrecognized in the early stages or for whom the initial treatment was unsuccessful. Rare, indirect deaths from Lyme disease have been reported.”
- There is no single method or methods that are 100% effective in preventing tick bites
- The more precautions you take and methods applied, the better chances you have of protecting you and your loved ones from tick bites
- Unfortunately, there is no vaccine currently available for Lyme disease- it was taken off the market several years ago- but there are currently clinic trials underway to find one that is safe and effective!
- However, there is a vaccine available for dogs!
Be prepared to encounter a tick/tick bite!
- No matter if it’s summer or winter, you can still get bitten by a tick
- Always educate yourself about ticks, Lyme disease and co-infections! There is constantly new information coming out each day on these topics, which we still know little about!
- Have the things on hand you need to properly remove a tick- look into buying a Lyme-aid kit! It has everything you need to properly remove a tick and send it out for testing!