Ticks: A-to-Z Guide from Diagnosis to Treatment to Prevention

Grandfather and granddaughter fishing. Ticks are a concern after outdoor activities.Introduction to ticks:

The possibility of tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease, Colorado tick fever, and other arboviruses, gives a sense of urgency to the topic of ticks.

What are ticks?

Ticks are a family of bloodsucking arachnids. They are related to mites, such as those that cause scabies, but are larger. They are related to spiders, but have shorter legs.

Ticks attach themselves to warm-blooded animals to feed. In doing so, they spread diseases from the blood of one animal to another.

People suggest many methods for removing ticks: applying rubbing alcohol, smothering with Vaseline, painting with fingernail polish, twisting clockwise (or counterclockwise), and touching with a hot match.

Though these methods are popular, they are not the best. They can even increase the risk of disease.

Who gets ticks?

People and animals who spend time outdoors in woods or tick-infested areas are most likely to be bitten by ticks. Generally, children are more likely to be bitten than adults.

What are the symptoms?

The tick bite is often painless, so that the tick is only noticed in a reasonable amount of time if someone checks for ticks after returning from a tick-infested area.

Are ticks contagious?

Ticks can spread many different contagious diseases. Ticks move from one warm-blooded animal to the next in order to feed.

How long do they last?

Lyme disease is most likely to spread when the tick has been feeding for at least 36 hours. Ticks will tend to remain in place at least that long unless discovered and removed.

How are ticks diagnosed?

An attached tick may be discovered accidentally or when someone searches for them intentionally. The tick may be well hidden in hairy parts of the body.

How are they treated?

Use tweezers to grasp the tick as near to the mouthparts and as close to the skin as possible. Pulling perpendicular to the skin, use gentle, steady force to remove the tick. The site should then be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected with alcohol or another disinfectant.

The tick can be killed by soaking it in rubbing alcohol or flushing it down the toilet. It should not be crushed or squeezed. Hands should be washed afterwards. Check with your pediatrician or local health department to see if they want to collect the tick for monitoring purposes.

How can ticks be prevented?

Tick bites may be prevented by protective clothing, insect repellants, and by making wise choices for outings.

Prolonged tick bites may be prevented by carefully inspecting children and their pets when they return from spending time in a potentially tick-infested area.

Prompt and complete removal of ticks does help prevent illness. This is a situation where the folk remedies can do more harm than good.

Related concepts:


Dr. Alan Greene

As a father of four himself, Dr. Greene has devoted himself to freely giving real answers to parents' real questions -- from questions about those all too common childhood conditions to those that address the most recent and rare pediatric illnesses. His answers combine cutting edge science, practical wisdom, warm empathy, and a deep respect for parents, children, and the environment. He is also an electrifying public speaker, and has personally touched many during his talks in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Dr. Greene is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of California at San Francisco. Upon completion of his pediatric residency program at Children's Hospital Medical Center of Northern California he served as Chief Resident. He entered primary care pediatrics in January 1993.

Dr. Greene is the Past President of The Organic Center and on the Board of Directors of Healthy Child Healthy World. He is a founding partner of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment. He also consults for the Environmental Working Group.

In 1995, he launched DrGreene.com, cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site” on the Internet. His award-winning site has received over 80 million Unique Users from parents, concerned family members, students, and healthcare professionals. In addition to being the founder of DrGreene.com, he is the Medical Director for HealthTap.

In 2010 Dr. Greene founded the WhiteOut Movement to change how babies in the United States are fed. In 2012 he founded TICC TOCC - Transitioning Immediate Cord Clamping To Optimal Cord Clamping. He is also the founder of KidGlyphs, a free iPhone app that provides a tool for young children to express themselves beyond their verbal skills while teaching them important language skills.

Dr. Greene is the Founding President of the Society for Participatory Medicine and has served as both President and Board Chair of Hi-Ethics (Health Internet Ethics. He is on the Board of Directors for Healthy Child Healthy World, The Lunchbox Project, and The Society for Participatory Medicine. He has also served as an advisor to URAC for both their inaugural and their updated health web site accreditation program. He is a founding member of the e-Patient Scholars Working Group, and a founding board member of the Center for Information Therapy.

Dr. Greene is a regular columnist for Parenting Magazine. He is also the Pediatric Expert for The People’s Pharmacy (as heard on NPR) and Healing Quest (seen on PBS stations). He was the original Pediatric Expert for both Yahoo! and iVillage.

Dr. Greene is the author of Feeding Baby Green (Wiley, 2009), Raising Baby Green (Wiley, 2007), From First Kicks to First Steps (McGraw-Hill, 2004), The Parent's Complete Guide to Ear Infections (People's Medical Society, 1997), and a co-author of The A.D.A.M. Illustrated Family Health Guide (A.D.A.M., Inc., 2004). He is the medical expert for three additional books, The Parent's Soup A-to-Z Guide to Your New Baby, (Contemporary Books, 1998) The Parent's Soup A-to-Z Guide to Your Toddler, (Contemporary Books, 1999), and The Mother of All Baby Books, (Hungry Minds, Inc., 2002).

Dr. Greene is a frequent keynote speaker at important events such as Health 2.0 2011 held in San Diego, CA, IFOAM 2008 (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), held in Modena Italy, the first European Internet health conference, held in Maastricht, the first International eHealth Association Conference, held in Jeddah, and the largest e-Healthcare World Conference, held in Las Vegas, and the first Green Power Baby Shower, held in Hollywood. Dr. Greene also appears frequently on TV, radio, websites, and in newspapers and magazines around the world, including such venues as the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, Fox and Friends, The Dr. Oz Show, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC network news, NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time Magazine, Parade, Parenting, Child, Baby Talk, Working Mother, Better Home's & Gardens, and the Reader's Digest.

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