First, Remove the Tick:
- Using fine-tipped tweezers, or a tick removal tool, firmly grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
- With a steady motion, pull straight up until all parts of the tick are removed. Do not twist or jerk the tick. Do not be alarmed if the tick’s mouthparts remain in the skin.
- Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
- Wash and disinfect your hands and the bite area.
Do NOT use petroleum jelly, matches, nail polish, glue, or other products to smother the tick! These methods are less effective, and may make it more likely the tick regurgitates harmful bacteria into your body.
Next, Watch for Symptoms of a Tickborne Illness
Symptoms from a tickborne infection often occur three days to 30 days after a tick bite, however symptoms of disseminated Lyme disease can occur days, months, or years after infection.
Symptoms may include a fever, headache, “bulls-eye rash”, or joint pain. Other symptoms can include cognitive changes, gastrointestinal problems, vision changes, or insomnia. Sometimes a tickborne illness presents as a mental health disorder such as anxiety, OCD, or Depression.
Vermont is considered an endemic state for Lyme disease. According to the CDC “because tick bites are not painful, many people will not remember a tick bite” so Vermonters and their health care providers should be aware of the variety of signs and symptoms related to tickborne diseases.
Should I get a tick tested?
There are differing opinions about whether to have a tick tested for pathogens after it is removed from your body.
The VDH and CDC discourage using results from these tests to guide decisions about treatment because even if a tick contains a germ, it does not mean that you have been infected. Also, a negative results can be misleading because you might have been bitten unknowingly by a different, infected tick.
Some Vermonters choose to save the tick in a plastic bag in a freezer (labeled with the date and location the tick was found and removed). If symptoms of a tickborne disease arise, testing the tick is possible when more information is needed.
Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture offers free tick testing
The VT Agency of Agriculture’s Passive Tick Surveillance Program offers free identification of ticks, and monitors the distribution of ticks in the state of Vermont and tick identification images (This program does not test for pathogens)
This guide from the CDC also has images for tick identification
EcoLab in Massachussets tests ticks for single or multiple pathogens from $30 – $85
Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory offers tick identification and testing from $85 – $125
The Lyme Disease Lab at Stony Brook University performs tick identification with a prescription from a physician (a fee will be charged)
Thangmani Lab offers free tick testing for ticks found in NY state.