Skin > Bites/Stings > Tick Bite

Tick Bite

Main Symptoms

  • A tick (small brown bug) is attached to the skin
  • A tick recently was removed from the skin
  • The wood tick (dog tick) is the size of a watermelon seed and can sometimes transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Colorado tick fever
  • The deer tick is between the size of a poppy seed (pin head) and an apple seed, and can sometimes transmit Lyme disease
  • The bite is painless and doesn't itch; so ticks may go unnoticed for a few days
  • Ticks eventually fall off on their own after sucking blood for 3 to 6 days

See More Appropriate Topic

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You can't remove the tick
  • You can't remove tick's head that broke off in the skin (Reason: to prevent localized infection) (Note: if the removed tick is moving, it was completely removed)
  • Widespread rash occurs 2 to 14 days following the bite
  • Fever or severe headache occurs 2 to 14 days following the bite
  • Bite looks infected (red streaking from the bite area, yellow drainage) (Note: infection doesn't start until at least 24-48 hours after the bite).

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 and 4) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Red-ring or bull's eye rash occurs around a deer tick bite (Lyme disease rash begins 3 to 30 days after the bite)

Parent Care at Home If

  • Tick bite with no complications and you don't think your child needs to be seen

Home Care Advice for Tick Bites

  1. Reassurance: Most tick bites are harmless. The spread of disease by ticks is rare.
  2. Tick Removal:
    • Use a tweezers and grasp the wood tick close to the skin (on its head)
    • Pull the wood tick straight upward without twisting or crushing it
    • Maintain a steady pressure until it releases its grip
    • If tweezers aren't available, use fingers, a loop of thread around the jaws, or a needle between the jaws for traction
    • Tiny deer ticks need to be scraped off with a knife blade or credit card edge
    • Note: covering the tick with petroleum jelly, nail polish, or rubbing alcohol doesn't work. Neither does touching the tick with a hot or cold object
  3. Tick's Head: If the wood tick's head breaks off in the skin, remove it
    • Clean the skin with rubbing alcohol
    • Use a sterile needle to uncover the head and lift it out
    • If unsuccessful, call your doctor
  4. Antibiotic Ointment: Wash the wound and your hands with soap and water after removal to prevent catching any tick disease. Apply antibiotic ointment to the bite once
  5. Expected Course: Tick bites normally don't itch or hurt. That's why they often go unnoticed
  6. Call Your Doctor If
    • You can't remove the tick or the tick's head
    • Fever or rash in the next 2 weeks
    • Bite begins to look infected
    • Your child becomes worse or develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms