Many tick-borne diseases can have similar signs and symptoms. If you get a tick bite and develop the symptoms below within a few weeks, see your healthcare provider. The most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses include:
- Aches and pains; tick-borne diseases can cause headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. People with Lyme disease may also have joint pain.
- Fatigue (tiredness).
- Fever/chills; all tick-borne diseases can cause fever.
- Muscle or body aches.
- Rash; Lyme disease, Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), Ehrlichiosis, and Tularemia can cause distinctive rashes.
- Runny or stuffy nose.
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
- Sore throat.
Your healthcare provider should evaluate the following before deciding on a plan for treatment:
- Your symptoms.
- The geographic region where you were bitten.
- Lab tests, depending on the symptoms and the geographic region where you were bitten.
Avoiding Ticks – Please click on the link below to learn about preventing tick bites, preventing ticks on your pets, and preventing ticks in your backyard.
How Ticks Spread Disease
Ticks transmit pathogens that cause disease through the process of feeding.
- Depending on the tick species and its stage of life, preparing to feed can take from 10 minutes to 2 hours. When the tick finds a feeding spot, it grasps the skin and cuts into the surface.
- The tick then inserts its feeding tube. Many species also secrete a cement-like substance that keeps them firmly attached during the meal. The feeding tube can have barbs, which help keep the tick in place.
- Ticks also can secrete small amounts of saliva with anesthetic properties so that the animal or person cannot feel that the tick has attached itself. If the tick is in a sheltered spot, it can go unnoticed.
- A tick will suck the blood slowly for several days. If the host animal has a blood borne infection, the tick will ingest the pathogens with the blood.
- Small amounts of saliva from the tick may also enter the skin of the host animal during the feeding process. If the tick contains a pathogen, the organism may be transmitted to the host animal in this way.
- After feeding, most ticks will drop off and prepare for the next life stage. At its next feeding, it can then transmit an acquired disease to the new host.
In the United States, some ticks carry pathogens that can cause human disease. Please click on the following link to learn more about diseases transmitted by ticks: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/diseases/index.html
How Ticks Survive
Most ticks go through four life stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph, and adult. After hatching from the eggs, ticks must eat blood at every stage to survive. Ticks that require this many hosts can take up to 3 years to complete their full life cycle, and most will die because they do not find a host for their next feeding.
Tick exposure can occur year-round, but ticks are most active during warmer months (April-September). Know which ticks are most common in your area.
Before You Go Outdoors
- Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting could bring you in close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood.
- Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. EPA’s helpful search tool can help you find the product that best suits your needs. Always follow product instructions. Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
- Avoid Contact with Ticks
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Walk in the center of trails.
After You Come Indoors
Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.
Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and daypacks.
Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tick-borne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
Check your body for ticks after being outdoors. Conduct a full body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, including your own backyard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:
- Under the arms
- In and around the ears
- Inside belly button
- Back of the knees
- In and around the hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
Remove the Tick as Soon as Possible
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as you can.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick.
- After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet. If you would like to bring the tick to your healthcare provider for identification put it in rubbing alcohol or place it in a sealed bag/container.
Consider Calling Your Healthcare Provider
In general, CDC does not recommend taking antibiotics after tick bites to prevent tick-borne diseases. However, in certain circumstances, a single dose of doxycycline after a tick bite may lower your risk of Lyme disease. Consider talking to your healthcare provider if you live in an area where Lyme disease is common.
Watch for Symptoms for 30 Days
Call your healthcare provider if you get any of the following:
- Muscle pain
- Joint swelling and pain
Treatment for tick-borne diseases should be based on symptoms, history of exposure to ticks, and in some cases, blood test results. Most tick-borne diseases can be treated with a short course of antibiotics.
Tick-borne Disease Continuing Education
To keep current with all information regarding Ticks, please visit the CDC’s Tick pages below: