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Injury Prevention and Safety

Tic bite

09/24/2007

Question:

My daughter has been biten by a tic and is getting pains starting from her wrist to here elbow should I be worried?

Answer:

Infection due to a tic bite is relatively infrequent. It depends to a large extent on how long the tic was attached to her before it was removed. Current experience suggests that it must be attached for 8 hours or more for there to be significant risk for infection.

The pain that occurs due to disease transmission is located in the joints rather than along the length of nerves. Joints also tend to be swollen and most painful with motion.

The frustrating thing about Lyme Disease as well as other tic borne infections is that there is usually a 2-4 week lag between the bite and a rise in antibody titers in the blood. So there is no easy or reliable way to identify infection early. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not recommend preventive antibiotics for tic bites because of the low rate of infection from tic bites, as well as there being no data on the effectiveness of such treatment.

The best thing to do at this point is to take your daughter's temperature daily at the same time (body temperature varies in predictable cycles during the day) for 2 weeks. If there is a rise in her temperature, take her to her doctor and report the tic bite. Also, if she develops a headache, joint pain or swelling, feeling ill, or a large, red circular ring of rash take her to her doctor.

I don't know how old your daughter is or how much she uses a computer, but carpal tunnel syndrome does produce pain in the forearm due to repetitive stress injury. If she is a heavy computer user, this is far more likely to be the problem than is the tic bite. She should see a hand and wrist specialist.

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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