Ticks are small, insect-like creatures that live in woods and fields. They 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. They typically attach firmly to your skin and begin to draw blood for their meal. This process is painless and most people will not notice the bite.
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.
See also: Tick bites
While most ticks do not carry diseases, some ticks can cause:
Watch for the symptoms of these diseases in the weeks following a tick bite:
Watch for a red spot or rash starting at the location of the bite.
The tick itself can cause paralysis in humans (called tick paralysis). Symptoms include:
Call your doctor if you have not been able to remove the entire tick. Also call if in the days following a tick bite you develop:
Call 911 if you have any signs of:
If a tick is attached to you, follow these steps to remove it:
After returning home:
Bolgiano EB, Sexton J. Tick-borne illnesses. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 132.
Updated 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.
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