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    Tick bite

    Ticks are small, insect-like creatures that can attach to you as you brush past bushes, plants, and grass. Once on you, ticks often move to a warm, moist location, like the armpits, groin, and hair. At that point they typically attach firmly to your skin and begin to draw blood.

    Ticks can be fairly large -- about the size of a pencil eraser -- or so small that they are almost impossible to see. Ticks can cause a variety of health conditions ranging from harmless to serious.

    This article describes the effects of a tick bite.

    This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

    See also: Tick removal

    Poisonous Ingredient

    Hard- and soft-bodied female ticks are believed to make a poison that can cause tick paralysis in children.

    While most ticks do not carry diseases, some ticks can carry bacteria that can cause:

    • Colorado tick fever
    • Lyme disease
    • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
    • Tularemia

    Where Found

    Ticks live in wooded or grassy fields.

    Symptoms

    Watch for the symptoms of tick-borne diseases in the weeks following a tick bite -- muscle or joint aches, stiff neck, headache, weakness, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and other flu-like symptoms. Watch for a red spot or rash starting at the location of the bite.

    The symptoms below refer more to the problems resulting from the bite itself, not the diseases that a bite may cause. Some of the symptoms are specific to one variety of tick or another but not necessarily common to all ticks.

    • Apnea (breathing stopped)
    • Blisters
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Rash
    • Severe pain at bite site (some varieties), lasting for several weeks
    • Swelling at bite site (some varieties)
    • Weakness
    • Uncoordinated movement

    Home Care

    Remove the tick (see tick removal). Be careful not to leave the tick's head stuck in the skin.

    Before Calling Emergency

    Determine the following information:

    • Patient's age, weight, and condition
    • Time the tick bite occurred
    • Part of the body affected

    Poison Control

    The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

    This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    See: Poison control center - emergency number

    What to Expect at the Emergency Room

    The symptoms will be treated as appropriate. Long-term treatment may be needed if complications develop. Preventive antibiotics are often given to people who live in areas where Lyme disease is common.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    Most tick bites are harmless. The outcome will depend on what type of infection the tick may have been carrying and how soon appropriate treatment was begun.

    References

    Holm AL. Arachnids, insects, and other arthropods. In: Long SS, Pickering LK, Prober CG, eds. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill Livingstone; 2003:chap 299.

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      • Lyme disease, erythema c...

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      • Lyme disease organism, B...

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      • Deer ticks

        illustration

      • Ticks

        illustration

      • Tick, deer engorged on t...

        illustration

      • Lyme disease - Borrelia ...

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      • Tick, deer - adult femal...

        illustration

      • Deer and dog tick

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      • Tick imbedded in the ski...

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      A Closer Look

        Talking to your MD

        Self Care

          Review Date: 12/15/2011

          Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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