If you are bitten by a tick (that means the tick attaches to your skin), there are a few tips that will make things easier for you as you learn about what you need to do next.
Take a picture of the tick in your skin. Do not squeeze, burn, put alcohol on or otherwise stress the tick as that will cause it to regurgitate the contents of its gut into your skin. Remove the tick immediately and secure in a zip-lock bag. Do NOT discard the tick. We recommend using a Tick Twister because this tool removes the tick quickly and easily without stressing or damaging it. You can also use needle-nose tweezers or other tick removal implements.
If you pull the tick out of your skin, SAVE THE TICK!! If a medical provider removes the tick from your skin, insist that they give you the tick. A tick does not have to appear engorged to have passed on pathogens. Place in a zip-lock bag and send it away for analysis to one of several labs specializing in this process. The labs will provide detailed instructions on their sites. Recommended labs include: www.tickreport.com at the University of Massachusetts; Thangimani-lab.com at Syracuse University; Ticknology.org; and Tickcheck.com at East Stroudsburg University in PA. All will let you know within a few days whether the tick was carrying diseases, and which ones. There is a fee for this service (except for the Lyme test at Thangimani Lab), but knowing what you are dealing with is well worth the money. A tick attached to you for any length of time can transmit disease. It is not true that you are safe if the tick was attached for less than 24, 36, 48 hours. It has been proven that Powassan virus can be transmitted in 15 minutes. If you have had a tick attached to your skin for any length of time, you are at risk.
If you experience a circular rash, either solid or bulls-eye, you have Lyme disease. Ask your provider for three weeks of antibiotics.
Do not accept a single dose of antibiotics to “prevent” Lyme disease. There is no scientific evidence to support this practice, and many people who received this treatment went on to develop chronic Lyme disease. (See our May 27, 2019 blog for more details https://www.lymeactionnetwork.org/news/no-evidence-that-a-single-dose-of-doxycycline-prevents-lyme-disease/.)
If you have symptoms of Lyme disease or one of the other tick-borne diseases, but don’t have the tick and you don’t have a rash, see your doctor and remind him/her that Lyme disease requires a “clinical diagnosis”. This means that the doctor reviews your situation (do you live in a region where Lyme disease is prevalent, do you have pets, have you been outside?), reviews your symptoms, and makes an educated guess about a diagnosis. Because the body doesn’t manufacture the antibodies necessary for an accurate blood test until 4-6 weeks after the bite, the doctor cannot rely on serology (blood tests) and must make a clinical diagnosis. Rashes only occur in about 50% of all cases of Lyme disease, and the tell-tale “bulls-eye” rash only occurs in about 10% of patients. If you are experiencing symptoms, and your doctor tells you to come back in 6 weeks for a blood test, ask your doctor to refer to the ILADS Guidelines for help in making a clinical diagnosis (https://www.ilads.org/patient-care/ilads-treatment-guidelines/). Waiting is a bad idea. Current primate research is indicating that it is extremely important to begin to battle the infection early before it has a chance to disseminate throughout the body. Waiting a few weeks could put you in significant danger.