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First Aid and Emergencies

Tick Bites

Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Ticks are small, spider-like insects that bite into the skin and feed on blood. Ticks live in the fur and feathers of many birds and other animals. Tick bites occur more often from early spring to late summer.

Most ticks do not carry diseases, and most tick bites do not cause serious health problems. However, it is important to remove a tick as soon as you find one.

Many of the diseases ticks may pass to humans (including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, relapsing fever, Colorado tick fever, and Lyme disease) have the same flu-like symptoms: fever, headache, muscle aches, and a general feeling of illness. Sometimes a rash or crater-like sore (ulcer) may accompany the flu-like symptoms. An expanding rash that looks like a bull's-eye is an early symptom of Lyme disease. It may appear 1 day to 1 month after you have been bitten by a deer tick. If you develop any of the symptoms described here after being bitten by a tick, be sure to tell your health professional.

Lyme disease is usually spread by nymph deer ticks, which are difficult to see. Adult deer ticks are about the size of an apple seed. All ticks grow larger as they fill up with blood.

Prevention

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Before going outdoors in a tick-infested area:

  • Put on light-coloured clothing and tuck pant legs into socks.

  • Apply an insect repellent containing DEET to exposed areas of skin or to clothing. Apply carefully around eyes and mouth.

    • Children and pregnant women should use a lower-concentration DEET product.

    • Don't put repellent on small children's hands, because they often put their hands in their mouths.

    • After returning indoors, wash the repellent off with soap and water.

Home Treatment

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  • Check regularly for ticks when you are out in the woods, and thoroughly examine your skin and

    scalp when you return home. Check your pets too. The sooner ticks are removed, the less likely they are to spread infection.

  • Remove a tick by gently pulling on it with tweezers, as close to the skin as possible. Pull straight out and try not to crush the body. Save the tick in a jar for tests in case you develop flu-like symptoms after you have been bitten.

  • Wash the area and apply an antiseptic.

When to Call a Health Professional

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Your doctor will probably be able to tell if you have Lyme disease based on your symptoms and whether you may have been exposed to deer ticks. In most cases, blood tests to diagnose Lyme disease are not useful.

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