TICK BITE

Main Symptoms

  • A tick (small brown bug) is attached to the skin.
  • A tick recently was removed from the skin.
  • The wood tick (dog tick) is the size of a watermelon seed and can sometimes transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Colorado tick fever.
  • The deer tick is between the size of a poppy seed (pin head) and an apple seed, and can sometimes transmit Lyme disease.
  • The bite is painless and doesn't itch; so ticks may go unnoticed for a few days.
  • Ticks eventually fall off on their own after sucking blood for 3 to 6 days.

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WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR FOR TICK BITE

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If:

  • Your child looks or acts very sick.

  • You can't remove the tick.
  • You can't remove tick's head that broke off in the skin. (Note: if the removed tick is moving, it was completely removed).
  • Widespread rash occurs 2 to 14 days following the bite.
  • Fever or severe headache occurs 2 to 14 days following the bite.
  • Bite looks infected (red streaking from the bite area, yellow drainage).  (Note: infection doesn't start until at least 24-48 hours after the bite.)

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9am and 4pm) If:

  • You think your child needs to be seen.
  • Red-ring or bull's eye rash occurs around a deer tick bite (Lyme disease rash begins 3 to 30 days after the bite).
  • Probable deer tick and it was attached for more than 24 hours (or tick appears swollen, not flat).

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

Parent Care at Home If:

  • Tick bite with no complications and you don't think your child needs to be seen.

HOME CARE ADVICE FOR TICK BITES

  1. Reassurance:  Most tick bites are harmless.  The spread of disease by ticks is rare.
  2. Tick Removal:
    • Use a tweezers and grasp the wood tick close to the skin (on its head).
    • Pull the wood tick straight upward without twisting or crushing it.
    • Maintain a steady pressure until it releases its grip.
    • If tweezers aren't available, use fingers, a loop of thread around the jaws, or a needle between the jaws for traction.
    • Tiny deer ticks need to be scraped off with a knife blade or credit card edge.
    • Note:  covering the tick with petroleum jelly, nail polish, or rubbing alcohol doesn't work.  Neither does touching the tick with a hot or cold object.
  3. Tick's Head:  If the wood tick's head breaks off in the skin, remove it.
    • Clean the skin with rubbing alcohol.
    • Use a sterile needle to uncover the head and lift it out.
    • If unsuccessful, call your doctor.
  4. Antibiotic Ointment:  Wash the wound and your hands with soap and water after removal to prevent catching any tick disease.  Apply antibiotic ointment to the bite once.
  5. Expected Course:  Tick bites normally don't itch or hurt.  That's why they often go unnoticed.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You can't remove the tick or the tick's head.
    • Fever or rash in the next 2 weeks.
    • Bite begins to look infected.
    • Your child becomes worse or develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Pediatric HouseCalls Online. Copyright © 2000-2004 Barton Schmitt, M.D. FAAP

Reviewed 8/2004

Revised 7/2002

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