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How to Treat a Tick Bite, Lyme Disease & Treatment Options

Summer is prime season for ticks, especially if you live or travel in wooded areas of the country. Ticks are attracted to both humans and pets, so it’s important to understand their habits and what to do if you are bitten by one.

Where Ticks Live

Ticks love the woods, so you’ll typically find these critters in tall grass, trees, and shrubs. It’s also common to find ticks living in leaf piles that have been collected, but not picked up. People who hike in backcountry areas, who don’t protect their arms and legs with a layer of clothing or insect repellent, and who don’t give their pets flea and tick medication are at an increased risk for tick bites.

Photo credit: Randen Pederson via Flickr

Symptoms of a Tick Bite

A vast majority of tick bites are medically harmless and require no professional treatment. But after being bit, people sometimes feel flu-like symptoms, like achiness, headaches, and chills. In more severe cases, you also may feel numbness at the site of the bite, joint pain, shortness of breath, weakness, and nausea.

How to Safely Remove a Tick

The most effective way to remove a tick is pretty simple, actually. Get a tweezers and grab the tick as close to its head as possible, just above the mouth of the tick. Once you get a good grasp on it, remove it in a single motion all at once. Be careful not to partially remove or crush the tick because this could force fluids inside the tick back into your skin.

Once fully removed, clean the site with warm, soapy water. We’d recommend having an extra bottle Olive Leaf Cut and Wound Remedy on hand during the summer months, because it helps promote the relief and rapid healing of bites and stings.

Photo credit: NY State IPM Program at Cornell University via Flickr

The Risk of Lyme Disease

While tick bites usually produce very minor symptoms, ticks can carry other diseases that they pass on to humans when they bite. The most well-known of these is Lyme disease, but Colorado tick fever, tularemia, and ehrlichiosis can also result.

In the U.S., the prevalence of ticks carrying Lyme disease is greatest in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states. The prevalence of Lyme disease in other parts of the country, such as the American South, has been a point of controversy lately between scientific researchers and activist groups.

But as a general rule, a tick has to remain on a person’s skin for a full day or two to transmit Lyme disease. One of the early warning signs is a rash that looks like a “bull’s eye,” marked by a red dot, clear middle ring, and red outer ring. Doxycycline is one of the most common medications used to treat Lyme disease in adults and children over eight years old.

When to See a Doctor

On rare occasions, a tick may release a neurotoxin when biting a human that can cause neck stiffness and muscle weakness. This can almost always be avoided if the tick is promptly removed from the skin. If you are concerned about Lyme disease because of the symptoms you are feeling, it doesn’t hurt to see a doctor to get a professional opinion.

If your tick bite is accompanied by a fever or rash, these are also signs that it’s time to make an appointment with your physician. Just keep in mind that Lyme disease is a clinical diagnosis that a doctor makes by an examination of your symptoms. Blood tests cannot provide an accurate diagnosis of the disease during the first few weeks of an infection.

In conclusion, here are some tips for preventing tick bites and having to worry about the potential diseases ticks may be carrying:

  • Wear long pants and sleeves in wooded areas
  • Keep your yard clear of piles of leaves and debris
  • Mow your lawn regularly
  • Use lemon eucalyptus oil to repel ticks, as a natural alternative to DEET
  • Check yourself, children, and pets for ticks after being outdoors

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