Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Tick Bites
Ticks are small spiderlike animals (arachnids) that
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
Most ticks don't carry diseases, and most tick bites don't
cause serious health problems. But it is important to remove a tick as soon as
you find it. Removing the tick's body helps you avoid diseases the tick may
pass on during feeding. Removing the tick's head helps prevent an infection in
the skin where it bit you. See Home Treatment for the
best way to remove a tick.
Usually, removing the tick, washing the
site of the bite, and watching for signs of illness are all that is needed.
When you have a tick bite, it is important to determine whether you need a
tetanus shot to prevent
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 begin from 1 day to 3 weeks after the
tick bite. Sometimes a rash or sore appears along with the flu-like symptoms.
Common tick-borne diseases include:
Tick paralysis is a rare problem that may occur after
a tick bite. In some parts of the world, tick bites may cause other tick-borne
diseases, such as
South African tick-bite fever.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a
You may need a tetanus shot depending
on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.
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
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and
illness. Some examples in adults are:
Symptoms of infection may
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.
To remove a tick:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
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
Based on your answers, you need
Call911or other emergency services now.
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
Some ticks are so small that it is hard to see them. This makes it hard to
tell whether you have removed the tick's head. If you do not see any obvious
parts of the tick's head in the bite site, assume you have removed the entire
tick, but watch for
signs of a skin infection.
When you return home from areas where ticks might live,
carefully examine your skin and scalp for ticks. Check your pets, too.
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
To prevent tick bites:
For information on how to specifically prevent Lyme disease,
see the topic
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerH. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Current as ofFebruary 23, 2015
Current as of:
February 23, 2015
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
I Want To...
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.