Ick! A tick! What should I do?

Mosquitos aren’t the only summer pest you have to watch out for.

Summer also brings with it a plague of hungry ticks, who are often just as happy to feast on human blood as they are on that of a deer or dog.  A bite from an infected deer tick can lead to Lyme disease, a potentially serious bacterial infection.

So what do you do if you find a tick on you?

  1. Quickly remove it.
  2. Check with a care provider for information and if needed, quick treatment.

“If you can, take a photo of the tick, preferably with a ruler or something nearby to help determine its size, then remove it—right away—taking care to pull out the entire insect,” Dang Tran, MD, vice president of medical practice for Fairview Clinics. And forget what you’ve read about using a hot match; the best method is to use tweezers, grasping the tick as close to its head as possible and gently removing it.

Be sure to wash the area of the bite with soap and water.  If possible, seal the tick in a container, then freeze it.  (This will help identify the tick later if you do show signs of infection.)

Symptoms to watch for

Most likely, that will solve the problem. But be cautious if:

  • You can’t completely remove the tick, which increases your chance of getting a disease.
  • You develop a rash, and the rash gets bigger. It’s only normal for a small bump to appear at the spot where you’ve been bitten. But a larger rash could indicate Lyme disease, especially if it looks like a bullseye.
  • You develop flu-like signs and symptoms. Fever, chills, fatigue, body aches and a headache may accompany the rash.
  • The bite appears infected.

Experts feel that the risk of Lyme disease transmission is extremely low if the tick is attached for less than 36 hours, but Dr. Tran does caution, “there are other rare diseases that can be transmitted in less time – so if you’ve been bitten by a tick, seek professional advice.”

This is a perfect example of when to use OnCare – our online tool for diagnosis and treatment of about 70 common conditions, including tick bits, bladder infections and pink eye. You can use it any time and from anywhere – even up north at a cabin – as long as you have internet access.

“OnCare is an ideal way to find out whether you’re looking at an annoyance or a potentially serious health problem,” says Dr. Tran.

You just go online to OnCare.org and simply answer questions about your symptoms.  Just like in the doctor’s office – OnCare will ask you questions based on your answers to be sure they understand how you’re feeling. Once you hit submit, a Fairview clinician receives your information, evaluates your answers – and determines the best care plan for you. If you need medication, they’ll send a prescription to your pharmacy.

When it comes to tick bites – Dr. Tran advises – there’s no need to panic. “Most tick bites are more annoying than dangerous. It’s only rarely, when experiencing some of the symptoms described here, that doctors will recommend further treatment.”

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