What You Need To Know About Ticks

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 5/30/2017, 9:39 a.m.
As summer heat descends, replacing balmy spring breezes, ticks are becoming active in many regions of the United States. In ...
If a tick is not removed within 36 to 48 hours, antibiotic treatment should be received.

Can you feel a tick bite? Where might it bite?

Dr. Sunil Sood, an infectious disease specialist and chairman of pediatrics at Northwell Health's Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, New York, said tick bites are usually painless.

"Generally, people cannot feel the tick bite, but after a day or two, they sense a mild itching," he said.

Although ticks can bite anywhere, they tend to migrate to moist, "warmer parts of the body," including the groin, armpits and scalp, which are the "three major areas where we find them attached."

Ticks are also often found behind the ears, behind the knees and around the waist.

Geoffrey Wall, an expert in tick-borne illness and professor of clinical sciences at the Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Science, said ticks are often found in the hair, on their way to the scalp.

"Especially in men or women with long hair, you've got to really look carefully on the whole scalp. It's hard to see. You've got to be thorough," he said.

"If, at the end of the day, you bathe or shower with a washcloth, you pretty much dislodge any tick that is not yet attached," Sood said, explaining that "it takes a bit of a while" for a tick that has settled on the skin to "set up shop."

It may take a full day or even 36 hours before they burrow into your skin and begin sucking blood, according to Sood.

What do I do when a tick bites?

First things first: Remove the tick.

As Wall noted, "there's all sorts of different means and methods that people have been taught."

Some recommend poking an attached tick with a hot match, while others say to immerse it in alcohol or put Vaseline on it to smother it.

"Some of this stuff may or may not work," Wall said, adding that the CDC's recommendation is to use fine-tipped tweezers and pull the tick straight out with steady pressure. "Do not jerk it up," he said, work slowly, and then "thoroughly clean the bite area with alcohol and then soap and water."

There's no need to visit a doctor immediately.

"Don't visit your doctor until symptoms appear," Wall said, noting that it can take days, weeks or even several weeks. "Fever and a rash, in particular, if you have either or both of those, it's time to go see your doctor."

If you do visit a doctor after pulling off a tick, Sood said, "don't flush it down the toilet or squish it with your foot." He explained that a doctor would want to identify send it off to a lab for identification. "Save the tick."

A doctor will not necessarily test for Lyme disease. A false negative or false positive is possible, and even if the tick is infected with Lyme disease, that "doesn't mean it transferred to you," Sood said, noting that even having lots of tick bites doesn't necessarily mean a person would be more likely to get a disease.