I Found a Tick on Me… Now What?

Andy McVey

Finding a tick on your body can be nerve-racking, but it’s essential to take all of the necessary steps to ensure that the tick is removed promptly and correctly to decrease the chance of contracting a tick-borne disease.

Read on for a detailed guide on what to do when you find a tick on yourself, including:

  1. How to properly remove the tick;
  2. Cleaning the infected area;
  3. Sending the tick to be tested for tick-borne diseases;
  4. Being aware of symptoms.

The Best Way to Remove a Tick

Removing a tick can be tricky, but the first step is to remain calm and move quickly. The longer the tick is embedded in the skin, the chances of contracting Lyme disease or other illnesses increases. Use a pair of tweezers to grab onto the tick and pull in an upwards motion.

DO NOT:

  • Twist when pulling the tick out so the insect breaks off into the skin.
  • Use a match, petroleum jelly, or fingernail polish to remove the tick.
  • Handle the tick with bare hands.

Once the tick has been removed, thoroughly clean the bite area and hands with soap and warm water. Applying alcohol to the bite area helps prevent any infection from occurring.

Place the tick in a sealed plastic bag to send to a lab for a Lyme disease test or testing for other tick-borne diseases.

Lyme Disease Symptoms to Look For

A bump or irritation is expected after any insect bite, but when the rash gets bigger or appears as a bullseye (known as erythema migraines), it’s time to call a doctor.

Other early Lyme disease symptoms include a fever and flu-like symptoms, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, joint pains, and muscle aches. Later stage Lyme disease symptoms consist of rapid heartbeat, headaches, poor memory, arthritis, and swollen joints. Call a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

If the tick is collected and saved after the bite, send the tick to a testing lab, for any tick-borne diseases even before experiencing any symptoms of illness.

 

Where to Send Ticks for Testing

Animal Health Diagnostic Center
Ithaca, NY
Tick testing offered:

  • Tick species identification
  • Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis

Fairfield Health Department
Fairfield, CT
Tick testing offered:

  • Tick species identification: only engorged deer ticks can be sent to this state lab

CT Vet Medical Diagnostics Lab
Storrs, CT
Tick testing offered:

  • Tick species identification
  • Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Rocky Mountain, Spotted fever, Ehrlichiosis, Tularemia

Identifyus, LLC
Needham, MA
Tick testing offered:

  • Lyme disease, Babesiosis Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Rickettsia, Ehrlichiosis, Powassan virus, Heartland virus, Colorado Tick fever, Bourbon virus

Igenex, Inc.
Palo Alto, CA
Tick testing offered:

  • Lyme disease, Relapsing fever, Ehrlichiosis, Bartonellosis, Rickettsiosis, Babesiosis

NJ Laboratories
New Brunswick, NJ
Tick testing offered:

  • Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Rickettsiosis, Tularemia

TickCheck
East Stroudsburg, PA
Tick testing offered:

  • Southern tick-associated rash illness
  • Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Bartonellosis, Borrelia miyamotoi, Tularemia, Mycoplasma spp., Borrelia spp., Rickettsia, Powassan virus

Ticknology
Fort Collins, CO
Tick testing offered:

  • Borreliosis, Lyme disease, Babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, Rickettsiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Tularemia, Bartonella

Tick Report
Amherst, MA
Tick testing offered:

  • Lyme disease, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Rickettsia, Tularemia, Powassan, Heartland virus, Colorado tick fever, Bourbon virus

 

Each of these tick testing centers offer different packages at different price points, so refer to their individual websites for more information.

While there are several diseases that ticks carry, the transmittable diseases can depend on location and type of tick. A Lyme disease test may suffice in most locations, but if other tick-borne diseases are common in your area, then it’s recommended to test for other diseases. For example, Blacklegged ticks, or deer ticks, appear in the Eastern United States and can transmit Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, and Powassan virus. While Lyme disease is the most commonly known tick-borne disease, these other illnesses can be carried by deer ticks.

While waiting on the results from the tick labs, you should still visit a doctor especially if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of tick-borne illness, so you can be treated in a timely manner. Do not rely exclusively on tick labs for a final diagnosis.

 

See the full tick map and travel guide for information on different ticks and the illnesses they can transmit.

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