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Injury Prevention and Safety

Tick bites

04/28/2006

Question:

my son was bitten by a tick about 3-4 days ago tick was removed but noticed what looked like a mosquitto bite a day or two after there is no rash around the site just a what looks like a mosquitto bite should I be worried? What precautions should I take?

Answer:

I know this must be very worrisome for you. There is no way to know for sure if the tick transmitted a disease to your son. However, the likelihood is very small if the tick was attached for  4-6 hours or less. It often requires attachment of 6-10 hours or even as long as 24 hours or more to transmit disease. A small, reddened area around the attachment site of the tick is not unusual as the body responds to heal the wound site.

Important signs of tick-related illnesses include a fever, cough, nausea, vomiting, joint pains, reddened eyes, swelling in his arms, legs or face, rash and/or a significant headache. If your son develops any of these symptoms, you should consult with a doctor as soon as possible and be certain to let the doctor know that your son had a tick bite. This will avoid a false diagnosis of the flu or another viral illness. Signs of illness from tick bites typically occur at least 2 days after a bite, but on average occur 7 days after the bite. It may be as long as 14 days after the bite in some cases.

The good news is that there are effective treatments for tick-borne diseases. The single most important factor is early recognition that the patient has a tick-borne disease so that the most appropriate treatment is begun without delay, hopefully within 5 days of onset of symptoms. This is why your role is so important in making sure the doctor knows of your son's exposure to tick-borne diseases.

There is no evidence that prophylactic administration of antibiotics prevents disease or is a good idea at all. The American Academy of Pediatrics Red Book recommends the following preventive efforts: making sure pets are protected from ticks, and when outdoors in tick-infested areas, wearing long sleeved and full length pants, tucking the pants bottoms into socks or boots, applying tick repellent containing DEET to one's clothing, and doing buddy checks for ticks before coming indoors.

To remove ticks, use a tweezers or a gloved hand as close to the skin as possible. Apply steady upward traction until the tick releases its grip. Do not crush the tic since this increases the likelihood of disease transmission. Clean the wound area with an antiseptic solution. The person removing the tick should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water.

I hope that all will be well with your son.

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Response by:

Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University