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Protecting yourself from tick-borne illnesses

Published June 12th, 2024

During the warm months of spring and summer, the looming threat of ticks becomes more palpable. While most people are aware of Lyme disease as the primary concern, ticks carry a staggering array of 13 other diseases. One of the most unsettling is the lone star tick, whose bite can trigger a rare meat allergy in its victims. Geographical factors play a crucial role; for instance, deer ticks, the infamous carriers of Lyme disease, thrive in the eastern U.S., while wood ticks, responsible for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, flourish in the Rocky Mountains and parts of the Pacific coast.

While some tick bites merely result in an itchy nuisance, others can lead to serious illness. Whether you’re tending to your garden, taking a leisurely stroll, or embarking on a hiking adventure, knowing how to identify and respond to a tick bite is essential. At Private Health Management, our experts have compiled a concise yet comprehensive guide to help you navigate the aftermath of a tick encounter, offering helpful steps to mitigate the risk of infection and essential advice on when to seek professional medical assistance.

Tick bite prevention1

  • Avoid areas with high grass.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so that if a tick lands on you, it will be easy to see and remove.
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants with legs tucked into your socks.
  • Spray your skin and clothing with insect repellent containing DEET or permethrin.
  • When you return home, remove your clothing, and thoroughly check your skin for ticks, including your scalp.
  • Shower to remove any undetected ticks.

What to do if you have been bitten by a tick2

  • Remove the tick within 24 hours, if possible.
  • Tug gently but firmly with blunt tweezers near the “head” of the tick at the level of your skin until it releases its hold on your skin.
  • Avoid crushing the tick’s body with your or handling the tick with bare fingers.
  • Thoroughly wash the bite area with soap and water.
  • Save the tick in a jar or take a good, clear photo to show your health care provider in case you become sick.
  • Make a note of where on your body and when the tick bite occurred in case you need to tell your health care provider these details.
  • Watch the site carefully for the next several weeks for signs of a rash.
  • Consider using the CDC’s “Tick Bite Tool” to help guide tick removal and next steps.

When to seek medical care3

  • You have been bitten by a tick and develop a bull’s-eye rash (around 7-14 days after the bite) or develop a fever.
  • Your child has had a tick bite, especially if the tick has been on the skin for more than 24 hours. A doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent Lyme disease, if the child is in a region where deer ticks are prevalent.
  • Part of the tick remains in the skin.
  • Any kind of rash develops — especially red dots on wrists or ankles.
  • The bite area shows signs of infection, including swelling, pain, or pus.
  • You develop symptoms like a fever, headache, stiff neck or back, muscle or joint aches.


  1. Preventing tick bites on people | CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020).
  2. Tick removal | CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022).
  3. Symptoms of tickborne illness |CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021).

About the Authors

Tracy Arsenault, MS, PA-C

Managing Clinical Director, ClearCare

Tracy is a board-certified Physician Assistant with experience as a Physician Assistant in Cardiology, Cardiothoracic and Vascular surgery. In addition, she has extensive experience as an exercise physiologist and clinical research associate with focus in muscle and aging, endocrinology, and nuclear medicine.

Julie Nowicki, PhD

Health and Science Writer

Dr. Nowicki has a background in scientific research and education, with a focus on molecular genetics, and has extensive experience as a medical writer. At PHM, she writes a variety of scientific communications, including articles and educational materials that summarize complex medical information for patients.