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.
Some species of 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. They grow in size after attachment. Ticks can transmit bacteria that can cause disease. Some of these can be serious.
While most ticks do not carry bacteria that cause human diseases, some ticks do carry these bacteria. These bacteria 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 in the days following a tick bite if you develop:
Call 911 or the local emergency number if you have any signs of:
To prevent tick bites:
After returning home:
Bolgiano EB, Sexton J. Tickborne illnesses. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 126.
Cummins GA, Traub SJ. Tick-borne diseases. In: Auerbach PS, Cushing TA, Harris NS, eds. Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 42.
Diaz JH. Ticks, including tick paralysis. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 296.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 3/15/2021
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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