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Although not routinely recommended, taking antibiotics after a tick bite may be beneficial for some persons. If you answer "yes" to the following questions, discuss the possibilities with your health care provider:
Your health care provider must determine whether the advantages of prescribing antibiotics after a tick bite outweigh the disadvantages.
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The longer a tick remains attached to someone, the greater the chance it will be able to spread a disease-causing germ. Therefore, any attached tick should be removed as soon as possible. Using needle-nose, or pointed tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Slowly pull the tick away (this takes patience and often takes several minutes - pull slowly to allow the tick to release from the skin). Once you have the deer tick, it may be placed in a jar filled with a few ounces of rubbing alcohol which will both kill the tick and preserve it for future testing by your doctor, if necessary. To avoid spreading the bacterium, don't squash the tick with your bare hands.
Whenever someone removes an attached tick from their body, they should watch for the appearance of any type of rash, fever or flu-like symptoms. Immediately seek the advice of a health care provider should any symptoms occur, especially if the tick was attached for more than 24 hours.
Ticks generally cling to plants near the ground in brushy, wooded, or grassy places. The edges of woodlands and leaf litter are high risk areas. The ticks, which cannot jump or fly, climb onto animals and people who brush against the plants.
If you cannot avoid areas likely to have ticks, the most important thing you can do to reduce your chances of getting sick is to check your entire body for ticks after returning indoors and to remove any attached tick as soon as possible. Pay particular attention to areas between the toes, back of the knees, groin, armpits, neck, along the hairline, and behind the ears. Review the MDPH Tick Identification Card to see what ticks look like.
Apply repellents that contain DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or permethrin before you go outside to reduce the risk of tick bites. DEET is safe and effective in repelling ticks when used according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Choose a product that will provide sufficient protection for the amount of time you plan to spend outdoors. Product labels often indicate the length of time that someone can expect protection from a product. Repellents should not be used on children less than two months of age.
Permethrin-containing products kill ticks but are not designed to be applied to the skin. Clothing should be treated and allowed to dry in a well-ventilated area prior to wearing. Because permethrin binds very tightly to fabrics, once the fabric is dry, very little of the permethrin gets onto the skin.
You can reduce the number of ticks around your home by keeping your grass cut short and clearing brush. For more tips on preventing tick bites and reducing the number of ticks around your home, review the MDPH brochure Preventing Disease Spread By Ticks.