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. They are often found in the armpits, groin, and hair. Ticks attach firmly to your skin and begin to draw blood for their meal. This process is painless. Most people will not notice the tick bite.
Ticks can be fairly large -- about the size of a pencil eraser. They can also be so small that they are very hard to see. Ticks can cause a number of health conditions. Some of these can be serious.
While most ticks do not carry diseases, some ticks can cause:
If a tick is attached to you, follow these steps to remove it:
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:
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: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 132.
Traub, SJ, Cummins, GA. Tick-borne diseases. In: Auerbach, PS. ed. Auerbach: Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA. Elsevier Mosby; 2011:chap 51.
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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