What to do if you find a tick on yourself
Summer is officially here. That means more time outside at parks, hiking trails and participating in other outdoor activities. Unfortunately, this could also mean ticks, and with them, Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is spread through the bite of infected ticks, according to the CDC. The CDC says the deer tick spreads the disease in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and north-central United States.
“When it comes to tick bites and Lyme disease, one of the most important things you can do is prevent a tick bite. One of the ways you can do that is to avoid being in tick infested areas,” said Dr. Saira Ajmal, an infectious disease doctor with Advocate Christ Medical Center.
If that is not possible and you are going to be visiting a wooded area or walking in places with tall grass, Dr. Ajmal says there are certain precautions you can take:
- Wear light colored, protective clothing. Dr. Ajmal suggests tucking trouser cuffs into your socks. Tape the area where the pants and socks meet so the ticks can’t crawl underneath.
- Apply insect repellant. Dr. Ajmal recommends 30 to 50 percent DEET
- Treat your clothes with permethrin. Permethrin is an insecticide that kills insects that touch it.
- When walking, walk in the center of the trail. This helps you avoid weeds brushing up against you.
- Once you’re out, check yourself and the people you are with for ticks. Do this every two to three hours.
“If you do find a tick, the most important thing is to remove it promptly,” Dr. Ajmal says.
All you need to remove a tick is a pair of tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible, pull straight up and then thoroughly clean the area with alcohol or soap and water. Watch for a development of a rash for up to 30 days after finding a tick.
Initially, you may notice an allergic reaction to the saliva from a tick, which would be a small area of redness, Dr. Ajmal said. This reaction is different from the erythema migrans rash you would get from Lyme disease. An EM rash happens three to 30 days after a bite and looks like a bullseye — red on the outside, white on the inside — and it would grow.
“Signs and symptoms can vary from one person to another and what influences that is how long a person has been infected by the time they develop symptoms,” said Dr Ajmal.
If you experience any rash or illness with a fever, call your physician and tell them you were bitten by a tick.
About the Author
Brittany Lewis is a media relations coordinator at Advocate Aurora Health. She previously worked as a reporter at TV stations around the Midwest, including Milwaukee. She studied at DePaul University where she majored in Journalism and Public Relations. Brittany enjoys traveling, hanging out by Lake Michigan, trying new restaurants and spending time with friends and family.