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What to Do if You are Bitten by a Tick

What should I do if I find a tick on me?

The longer a tick remains attached to someone, the greater the chance it will be able to spread disease-causing germs. Therefore, any attached tick should be removed as soon as possible using fine-point tweezers. The tick should not be squeezed or twisted, but grasped close to the skin and pulled straight out with steady pressure.

After I remove an attached tick, should I have it tested?

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health does not offer tick identification or tick testing. If you choose to have a tick tested by a private lab, it is important to keep in mind the following:

  • Tests performed on the ticks are not perfect and they do not test for all infections ticks may be carrying. Therefore, even with a negative result, people should still monitor themselves for the appearance of rash, fever or other unusual symptoms and immediately seek the advice of a health care provider should any symptoms occur.
  • If someone has been infected by a tick bite, symptoms may begin to occur even before the results of tick testing are available. People should not to wait for tick testing results before seeking medical advice should any symptoms develop.
  • A positive test on a tick is not an automatic indication that treatment is needed. A positive test indicates that the tick was infected but not that the tick was successful in spreading the infection to the person bitten. The longer a tick is attached to you, the greater the chance that it will spread infection. Discuss any positive test results with your health care provider.

Should I be treated after removing an attached tick?

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:

  • Can the tick be identified as a deer tick?
  • Was the tick attached for at least one full day?
  • Has it been less than three days since you removed the tick?

Your health care provider must determine whether the advantages of prescribing antibiotics after a tick bite outweigh the disadvantages.

After I remove an attached tick, what symptoms should I look for?

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.

Above content provided by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted June 2013

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