A Tick Bite! What Should I Do Now?

Feb 22, 20160 comments

Ticks have been described as nature’s dirty needles. They feed on lizards, birds, deer, foxes, moose, bears, all rodents, and pets! They carry multiple infections, not just Lyme disease. Be prudent and prevent possible infections as soon as you find a tick bite by following these recommendations.

How do I remove a tick if I’ve been bitten?

Ideally, wear a pair of gloves during the removal. Using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull firmly but gently to release the tick’s mouth from the site of the bite. It’s very important to not squeeze the tick or twist it when you remove it. Simply pull straight up and out.

Squeezing the tick’s body may cause the infection to be squeezed into the person being bitten. For this reason, do not use your fingers to pull the tick out. If the tick’s mouth parts remain attached to the skin, you may remove them as you would a splinter. Wash the area with a disinfectant. We suggest you apply rubbing alcohol, betadyne or an antibiotic cream to the bite after cleaned.

Why is it important to have ALL TICKS tested for potential infections?

The deer tick is not the only infectious tick! Wood ticks, dog ticks, and soft ticks can also carry infections, such as Rickettsia, Tularemia, Erlichia and Anaplasma, Q Fever, Babesia and Bartonella.

Once the tick is removed, place it in a zip lock plastic bag with a damp paper towel or moist leaf to keep it hydrated. As soon as possible, send the tick to be analyzed for possible infections.

Where do I send the tick for analysis?

Our patients have had very good success with the University of Massachusetts tick-borne disease diagnostic service in Amherst, Mass. For $50, the UMass lab will test for appropriate infections carried by the specific tick species you send in.

If you are sending a deer tick, please be sure to ask that the tick be tested for Bartonella in addition to the five other infections the lab tests for. On the website, you find all the instructions on how to go about having the tick tested and the results of the test sent to you.

Why do the doctors at North Coast Family Health treat acute tick bites?

It is much safer to prevent tick-borne infections than it is to wait until you are sick with one or more of them. Also, it’s very helpful for our Lyme-literate doctors to actually see the tick bite and check for a fever and other possible symptoms. The doctor can also make recommendations about any potential symptoms to watch for within the following days to weeks.

Whether you happen to be a current patient at North Coast Family Health or not, we will schedule you immediately for a 30 minute visit with one of our Lyme-literate doctors to treat a recent tick bite.

How long does the tick need to be attached for infection to be transmitted?

Many of our patients have been told a tick must be attached for 24 to 48 hours in order to transmit an infection. We don’t find this to be true in our practice. We have seen patients exposed to ticks for far less time who have contracted an infection.

For one of our patients, the tick was attached for only a few minutes and, due to the location of the bite (i.e., on a large vein in her arm), the patient became infected. She developed a 102-degree fever the following day.

What can I expect regarding treatment?

Typically, we will prescribe one or more antimicrobials for 4 to 6 weeks to treat the majority of newly acquired infections carried by ticks. We prescribe for this length of time based on the research of Eva Sapi, PhD, in New Haven, CT. Dr. Sapi grew Borrelia Burgdorferi (Lyme bacteria) on a growth plate in the lab and treated it with aggressive doses of doxycycline. After 3 weeks of treatment, half of the bacteria on the growth plate were still living. We have no reason to believe this wouldn’t be the case in a human being as well.

Once the results of the tick analysis come back, we can determine if all of the infections found in the tick are being addressed and the treatment can be adjusted accordingly. If no infections have been detected, the prophylactic treatment for prevention of potential infections may be discontinued.

Why is this advice different than that of my PCP?

We realize these recommendations are not necessarily what your PCP would recommend, but they are based on our experience as Lyme-Literate Naturopathic Doctors who have seen and treated thousands of patients with tick-borne infections. We have all trained with the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society at annual conferences as well as with other leading tick-borne disease experts.

As we’ve already mentioned, it’s much safer to prevent tick-borne infections than it is to wait until you are sick. Some of these infections can cause very disabling symptoms – and even death – if not treated. Unfortunately, many of the tests available are less than 50% sensitive once you have been infected, which results in misdiagnosis and ineffective treatment. This is the risk you take if you don’t treat an acute tick bite.

For more information about tick infections, you may find these websites helpful:


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