Ticks are small, insect-like creatures that live in woods and fields. They attach to you as you brush past bushes, plants, and grass. Once on you, ticks often move to a warm, moist location, like the armpits, groin, and hair. At that point they typically attach firmly to your skin and begin to draw blood.
Ticks can be fairly large - about the size of a pencil eraser - or so small that they are almost impossible to see. Ticks can cause a variety of health conditions ranging from harmless to serious.
While most ticks do not carry diseases, some ticks can cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, and tularemia. Watch for the symptoms of these diseases in the weeks following a tick bite - muscle or joint aches, stiff neck, headache, weakness, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and other flu-like symptoms. Watch for a red spot or rash starting at the location of the bite.
The tick itself can cause tick paralysis. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, weakness, incoordination, and spreading paralysis.
- DO NOT try to burn the tick with a match or other hot object.
- DO NOT twist the tick when pulling it out.
- DO NOT try to kill, smother, or lubricate the tick with oil, alcohol, vaseline, or similar material.
Call immediately for emergency medical assistance if
Call your doctor if you have not been able to remove the entire tick. Also call if you develop a rash, joint pain or redness, flu-like symptoms, or swollen lymph nodes following a tick bite.
Call 911 if you have any signs of severe headache, paralysis, trouble breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, or other serious symptoms.
If a tick is attached to you, follow these steps to remove it.
1. Grasp the tick close to its head or mouth with tweezers or your fingernails. Pull it straight out with a slow and steady motion. Be careful not to leave the head embedded in the skin.
2. Clean the area thoroughly with soap and water.
3. Save the tick in a jar and watch carefully for the next week or two for signs of Lyme disease.
4. If all the parts of the tick cannot be removed, get medical help.
Wear long pants and long sleeves when walking through heavy brush, tall grass, and densely wooded areas. Pull your socks over the outside of your pants to prevent ticks from crawling up inside. Keep your shirt tucked into your pants. Wear light-colored clothes so that ticks can be spotted easily. Spray your clothes with insect repellant. Check your clothes and skin frequently while in the woods.
After returning home, remove your clothes and thoroughly inspect all skin surface areas, including your scalp. Ticks can quickly climb up the length of your body. Some ticks are large and easy to locate. Other ticks can be quite small, so carefully evaluate all black or brown spots on the skin.
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.
All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.