Ticks are small spiderlike insects that bite by fastening themselves into the skin and feed on blood. Ticks live in the fur and feathers of birds and animals and often bite during early spring to late summer and thrive in areas where there are many wild animals and birds.
Some ticks do not carry diseases but it is important to remove a tick in order to avoid a disease that tick can transmit during feeding. It is important to remove the head of the tick to prevent an infection in the skin.
Some diseases caused by a tick bite can lead to flu-like symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, headache and muscle aches. These symptoms can manifest starting a day up to 3 weeks after the bite. Oftentimes, a sore or a rash develops along with the symptoms. Tick paralysis is a rare condition that happens after a tick bite, but in some parts of the world, tick bites causes other tick borne diseases such as South African tick-bite fever.
Treatment and home remedies
Some ticks are small in size that makes it hard to see them and it is difficult to tell whether the head of the tick is removed. It is better if the whole body of the tick is removed and watch for symptoms of skin infection.
- Use a fine-tipped tweezers in removing the tick, put on gloves or cover the hands with a tissue paper and then remove the tick. Avoid holding the tick with bare hands.
- Avoid asphyxiating the tick that is attached to the skin using petroleum jelly, rubbing alcohol or nail polish since these will only increase the risk of infection.
- Avoiding burning the tick while it is still attached to the skin.
- Place the tick in a dry jar and save it in the freezer for identification if needed.
- Wash the affected area with warm water and soap or a mild dishwashing soap.
- If the bite becomes irritated, apply antibiotic ointment and cover with an adhesive bandage. If the skin under the bandage starts to itch or rash develops, stop using the ointment.
- After removing the tick, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water and examine the skin and scalp for ticks. Do not forget to check the pets for ticks as well.
Treatment to relieve pain and itchiness
- Apply a cold compress or an ice pack over the affected area for 15-20 minutes once an hour for the first 6 hours. You can also use a cool and wet cloth placed on the bite for at least 6 hours in case an ice pack is not available. If you want to learn more about cold therapy, read here.
- Take over-the-counter medications to help relieves itchiness, redness and swelling.
- Spray the skin with a local anesthetic that contains benzocaine in order to relieve pain. If the skin reacts to the spray, stop using the anesthetic benzocaine.
- Calamine lotion can also be applied to the skin in order to minimize the itchiness. If there is no swelling after 6 hours, place a warm washcloth on the affected area for comfort.