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Ticks are small spider-like animals (arachnids). They bite to fasten themselves onto the skin and feed on blood. Ticks live in the fur and feathers of many birds and animals. Tick bites occur most often during early spring to late summer and in areas where there are many wild animals and birds.
Most ticks don't carry diseases, and most tick bites don't cause serious health problems. But it's important to remove a tick as soon as you find it. Removing the tick's body helps you avoid diseases that the tick may pass on during feeding. Removing the tick's head helps prevent an infection in the skin where it bit you.
In most cases, removing the tick, washing the site of the bite, and watching for signs of illness are all that's needed. When you have a tick bite, it is a good time to make sure your tetanus immunization is up to date.
Some people may have an allergic reaction to a tick bite. This reaction may be mild, with a few annoying symptoms. In rare cases, a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) may occur.
Many of the diseases ticks carry cause flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and muscle aches. Symptoms may start from 1 day to 3 weeks after the tick bite. Sometimes a rash or sore appears along with the flu-like symptoms. Ticks are found worldwide. They can carry many diseases, including common ones such as:
Tick paralysis is a rare problem that may occur after a tick bite. It may cause tingling and numbness in hands or feet, double vision, and trouble swallowing. In some parts of the world, tick bites may cause other tick-borne diseases, such as South African tick-bite fever.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) may include:
A severe reaction can be life-threatening. If you have had a bad allergic reaction to a substance before and are exposed to it again, treat any symptoms as an emergency. Even if the symptoms are mild at first, they may quickly become very severe.
Symptoms of infection may include:
Usually found in dirt and soil, tetanus bacteria typically enter the body through a wound. Wounds may include a bite, a cut, a puncture, a burn, a scrape, insect bites, or any injury that may cause broken skin. Tetanus can also happen with other infections, like dental infections. It can happen during a surgery or pregnancy and delivery.
A wound can be so small, you may not notice you have one. Or a skin blister could break and become an open wound. If there is any delay in finding or cleaning a wound, there is an increased risk for skin infection and a chance for tetanus to get in the wound. A tetanus infection can start 3 to 21 days after the bacteria enter the wound. Be especially careful about wounds on your fingers and toes.
Many people may not know when they got their last tetanus shot. So it's a good idea to call your doctor to see if you need one.
Make sure to stay up to date on your tetanus shots. A tetanus shot is recommended:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Tick paralysis is a rare reaction to the venom that some ticks release when they bite. Symptoms usually start 4 to 7 days after a tick attaches to your body and may include:
Removing the tick stops the release of the venom and reverses the problem.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Most ticks don't carry diseases, and most tick bites don't cause serious health problems. The sooner ticks are removed, the less likely they are to spread disease.
Some ticks are so small that it's hard to see them. This makes it hard to tell if you have removed the tick's head. If you don't see any obvious parts of the tick's head in the bite site, assume that you have removed the entire tick. But watch for signs of a skin infection.
Here are some things you can do to care for a tick bite.
Use fine-tipped tweezers to remove a tick. If you don't have tweezers, put on gloves or cover your hands with tissue paper, and then use your fingers. Don't handle the tick with bare hands.
After you remove the tick, wash your hands really well with soap and water.
Don't try to burn the tick off. And don't try to smother an attached tick with petroleum jelly, nail polish, gasoline, or rubbing alcohol. This may increase your risk of infection.
If you need to cover the area, you can apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, lightly to the wound. It will keep the bite from sticking to the bandage.
Remove any ticks you find. Then put your clothing in a clothes dryer on high heat for about 4 minutes to kill any ticks that might remain.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Adaptation Date: 8/24/2023
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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