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Most ticks do not carry diseases, and most tick bites do not cause serious health problems. But it is important to avoid and check for ticks, and to remove a tick as soon as you find it. Removing the tick completely may help you avoid diseases such as Lyme disease that the tick may pass on during feeding, or a skin infection where the tick bit you.
Use fine-tipped tweezers to remove a tick. If you don't have tweezers, put on gloves or cover your hands with tissue paper, then use your fingers. Do not handle the tick with bare hands.
After the tick has been removed, wash the area of the tick bite with a lot of warm water and soap. A mild dishwashing soap, such as Ivory, works well. Be sure to wash your hands well with soap and water also.
NOTE: If you can't remove a tick, call your doctor.
You can use an antibiotic ointment, such as polymyxin B sulfate (for example, Polysporin) or bacitracin. Put a little bit of ointment on the wound. The ointment will keep the wound from sticking to a bandage. If you get a skin rash or itching under the bandage, stop using the ointment. The rash may mean you had an allergic reaction to the ointment.
Some ticks are so small it is hard to see them. This makes it hard to tell if you have removed the tick's head. If you do not see any obvious parts of the tick's head where it bit you, assume you have removed the entire tick, but watch for symptoms of a skin infection.
If you have a rash, headache, joint pain, fever, or flu-like symptoms, this could mean you have an illness related to a tick bite. If you have any of these symptoms, or symptoms of a skin infection, call your doctor.
Do not try to:
Smothering or burning a tick could make it release fluid—which could be infected—into your body and increase your chance of infection.
There are some tick-removal devices that you can buy. If you are active outdoors in areas where there are a lot of ticks, you may want to consider buying such a device.
Other Works Consulted
- Gammons M, Salam G (2002). Tick removal. American Family Physician, 66(4): 643–646. Also available online: http://www.aafp.org/afp/20020815/643.html.
- Gentile DA, Lange JE (2001). Tick-borne diseases. In PS Auerbach, ed., Wilderness Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 769–806. St. Louis: Mosby.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine|
|Last Revised||July 5, 2013|
Last Revised: July 5, 2013
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