Tick Bites and Lyme Disease

tickA tick is a small bug that attaches to the skin and sucks blood for 3-5 days. It does not hurt or itch. The deer tick that spreads Lyme disease is about the size of a sesame seed. The wood tick that can spread Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is up to one-half inch in diameter.

In areas with the highest percent of infected ticks, 30 to 35% are infected with the organism that causes Lyme disease. The transmission rate of Lyme disease by an infected tick to a person is about 3%. Studies have shown that if an engorged tick is attached less than 48 hours, there is no transmission of disease. At 72 hours, the chance of transmission is 1%. Studies have been done looking at the safety and efficacy of giving antibiotics preventatively in adults, but not in children. As result, we do NOT give antibiotics prophylactically for tick bites, even if the tick is a deer tick and known to be infected. Antibiotics are very effective at eliminating this disease.

The best approach to ticks is prevention. If you are going to be hiking in a wooded area, wear long pants tucked into socks, and a long sleeved shirt. Wear bug repellent on shoes and socks. Check for ticks every few hours and check the entire body once a day. A shower may help remove some ticks. Be sure to check the scalp, neck, armpit and groin. Removing ticks promptly may help prevent spread of the infection. Apply tick control medication regularly to your dog and cat. Check them for ticks daily.

Removing ticks is straightforward; an adult at home can do it. Use tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Apply a steady upward traction until it releases its grip. Try not to squeeze too hard or jerk suddenly because you may crush or break the tick. If the body is removed, but the head is left in the skin, leave it alone. It will disintegrate or fall off on its own. There is no chance the head spreading disease, as the organisms live in the ticks stomach. Do not apply a hot match to the tick as you may burn your child’s skin. Also, this method has not been shown to cause the tick to detach but may cause it to vomit infected secretions into the wound! Keep the wound clean.

Lyme Vaccine

The vaccine is no longer available.

Call Our Office

  • During office hours if your child develops a fever, flu-like symptoms, or an enlarging ring-shaped rash within one week of a deer tick bite.
  • Immediately if your child develops a spotted red rash on her palms and body and acts sick.