Ticks and Disease


Ticks can carry diseases

Tiny ticks called deer ticks (because they mainly live on deer) can bite humans and transmit Lyme disease. Larger ticks, like dog ticks, can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and other diseases. A tick must suck your blood and regurgitate material into your bloodstream in order to give you an infection. The sooner you get the tick off, the less likely an infection will follow. It is very unlikely for someone to get Lyme disease if the tick has been on less than 12-24 hours.

Signs of Lyme disease include expanding rashes, fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle and joint pain that can last for weeks to months. Facial paralysis, meningitis and heart block can also be present. It takes 3 to 5 weeks after the bite to show signs of Lyme disease. The disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia, and it can be treated with antibiotics.

How to get ticks off

There are various folk remedies for getting ticks off, many of which involve dangerous substances like kerosene, or dangerous actions like trying to burn the tick without burning your skin! These may or may not work, but don't waste time trying them.

The very best way to get a tick off is to pull it directly out using tweezers. Try not to grab it on the tail end, since this could pinch its stomach and cause it to regurgitate into your skin and your bloodstream.

Pull it straight out (no need to twist!) and clean the bite area with alcohol or peroxide. Call the doctor if it starts to look infected, such as red rashes around it or pus coming out.

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Pediatric Annals, July 2007

Avoiding tick bites

Follow the Guide for Parents below to reduce the number of tick exposures. Checking for ticks after playing outdoors is the most important step. Remember that deer ticks are very small: the size of a poppy seed.

 

© Rick Voakes 1999, Health-bytes LOGO  by Rie Cramer