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Diseases & Conditions

Tick Bites

How can I avoid tick bites?

If you are planning an outdoor activity, especially those in a heavily wooded area, it is important to follow a few simple precautions to protect yourself from tick bites.

Wear long sleeved, light-colored clothing, with tightly woven fabric. This gives ticks less area to target and allows you to see ticks on your clothing.

When traveling through the woods or grassy fields, stay near the center of the trails. At home, make sure that you keep your lawn mowed and bushes and trees trimmed as short as possible.

If you choose to apply tick repellents, such as those containing DEET, try to avoid spraying them directly to your bare skin. (high concentrations of DEET may have harmful effects on the nervous system.) Apply the spray to your clothing, socks, shoes, tents and backpacks.

Tick Illustration

When returning from the outdoors, check for ticks. Be especially observant of hair, body folds, ears, underarms and the back. Check your clothes and gear for ticks and wash these items immediately.

What if I have been bitten by a tick?

If you discover a tick, remove it immediately. The longer the tick feeds, the greater chance that it can transmit its bacteria to you. The easiest removal method is to use a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible, and gently pull the tick off. Then, thoroughly wash your hands and the bite area with rubbing alcohol to prevent transmission to other areas of your body.

When should I call the doctor?

It is best to wait and see whether you develop any signs or symptoms. If a large red mark forms around the tick bite or if you develop fever, flu-like symptoms, rash, or more severe illness, contact your doctor right away. Your doctor can determine whether these symptoms might be caused by a tick-borne disease, and whether antibiotics will be needed.

Is there a vaccine for preventing tick-borne disease in humans?

Currently there are vaccines being tested, but there are no guarantees that they will be effective. The best option is to take precautions so that tick bites do not occur in the first place.

This information is provided by your physician and the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. This information has not been designed to replace a physician's medical assessment and medical judgment. This page may be reproduced non-commercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. Any other reproduction is subject to Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine approval. Bulk color reprints available by calling 216.444.2661.

Source: Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine Volume 67 Number 3 March 2000

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/19/2010...#7234