Ticks grow bigger and their body changes color as they feed, but their scutum remains the same.
Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)
I was bitten by a tick recently and now there is a big red spot. Should I be worried?
It depends on how recently. Within 3 days of being bitten by a tick, many people will develop a red spot that never expands to much bigger than a quarter. This is just an allergic reaction to the saliva that the tick is spitting into you. Watch the site, however. If the red spot grows in size over a period of a week or so, to bigger than two inches, then it is a likely sign you may be infected with the Lyme disease agent.
Is there a lab where I can send a tick to see if it was carrying Lyme disease bacteria or some other tickborne pathogen prior to being treated with a long series of antibiotics?
Use TickEncounter Resource Center’s 2 Step plan to help manage every tick encounter. Send a picture of your tick to TickSpotters and get a tick riskiness assessment of your tick along with a personalized plan of action (free). If it’s a risky tick, or even if you still have concerns, send your tick to TickReport at UMass to have it tested for the pathogens carried by the type of tick that bit you (testing charge applies). The typical time from tick bite to test result is 4.
Today I pulled a dog tick out of my scalp. Can this type of tick transfer any disease?
American dog ticks can be infected with Rocky Mtn Spotted Fever rickettsia and other less pathogenic rickettsia, and rarely, with the agent of tularemia. In our geographic area, the dog tick pathogen infection rate is quite low for Rocky Mtn Spotted Fever and the other pathogens, too.While the risk for infection from dog tick bites is low, if the tick is infected its riskiness increases the longer it is attached and feeding. Depending on the duration of attachment you may choose to have the tick tested (see above).
When a tick bites how long does it stay attached?
The length of time a tick stays attached depends on the tick species, tick life stage and the host immunity. It also depends on whether you do a daily tick check. Generally if undisturbed, larvae remain attached and feeding for about 3 days, nymphs for 3-4 days, and adult females for 7-10 days. Deer ticks feed a day or so faster than Lone Star ticks and American dog ticks. You might be interested in our tick growth comparison pictures to see how much ticks change their appearance as they feed. It can make correct tick identification a challenge sometimes.
Can I get Lyme disease from any tick bite?
Firstly, you can only get Lyme disease if a tick carrier of the disease-causing microbe bites you. Secondly, blacklegged (deer) ticks are the most common type of tick transmitting the Lyme disease bacterium from host to host. In most places in the Northeastern U.S., as many as 15-30% of deer tick nymphs and 50% of adult female deer ticks are infected. If you are bitten by a tick, remove it right away, then identify it or have it identified by a knowledgeable resource. You may want to have it tested for infection to better assess your risk. Deer ticks attached for less than 24 hrs are not likely to have transmitted an infection.
Can I still get Lyme disease once there is frost?
Most people think that bloodsuckers like mosquitoes and ticks disappear, along with the risk for disease transmission, once there is a frost and the weather turns cooler. That's true for mosquitoes; they either die, or some species go into a feeding diapause. Some ticks also go into a feeding diapause in the autumn, but not deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis) – they’re a different type of bug! The adult stage deer tick actually begins its feeding activity about the time of first frost (or early October throughout its range), and it will latch onto any larger host (cat to human) any day that the temperature is near or above freezing.
Do ticks drop on you from trees?
No! Ticks don't fly, hop, run, or even move all that quickly. Depending on the life stage and species, they quest for hosts anywhere from ground level to about knee-high on vegetation, and once latched on they tend to crawl upward to find a place to bite. If clothing or skin folds don’t get in their way, ticks would likely attach around the head area causing people to believe that they drop out of trees.
What are the best preventive measures against ticks when preparing for a weekend hike through the woods?
We used to tell people to use DEET repellents, tuck your pants into your socks, walk in the center of the trail, and to do a thorough tick check when you get home. Although those strategies can help reduce the risk of tick bites and disease, people didn't like the feel of repellents on skin, or the look of long pants tucked into socks. Moreover, the poppy-seed sized nymphal deer ticks were hard to find.
We now encourage people to Get TickSmart and plan ahead--treat shoes, socks, shorts/pants, and shirt with PERMETHRIN tick repellent before going on the hike. Let the treatment dry onto the fabric (takes about an hour or two), then go out and have fun! It’s still good practice to walk down the center of the trail, and try to remember to do a tick check when you get home, but if you are wearing clothes treated with PERMETHRIN tick repellent, there is a much reduced likelihood that a tick will latch on and bite - even if you’re wearing shorts! More good news - your treated clothes will be ready to protect you the next time you venture into tick country, whether on a hike, walking the dog, or just playing/working around the yard (note: DIY-treated clothes can be washed up to 6 times, while commercially-treated clothes are still effective after 70 washes).
I don’t feel comfortable wearing permethrin treated clothing or DEET every time I venture outside. Is there any evidence to support the use of such products?
To help ease your concern regarding tick repellent clothing, take a look at another TickEncounter application (Should I Wear Tick Repellent Clothing?) to better appreciate the margin of safety you have. TickEncounter has not done extensive testing with the variety of natural repellents flooding the market today but there are some credible reports that a few compounds (such as nookatone) may be somewhat effective in repelling. Unfortunately, that compound is not yet available in product form. You should know that product claims of tick repellency usually are largely based on studies done in petri dishes in the lab. Few of these products have ever been evaluated under field conditions with real tick encounters.
Why do some bites hurt and others don’t?
Pain perception is a complicated neurologic phenomenon but we know that pain hypersensitivity does accompany tissue inflammation, and bites and stings from various insects and ticks do trigger tissue inflammation to varying degrees. Some biting bugs have potent molecules in their saliva to help mask pain while others don’t bother. For example, since ticks need to remain attached to hosts for days in order to steal blood for growth and reproduction, their saliva contains potent painkillers called kininases -- enzymes that breakdown pain-mediating peptides in inflamed tissue. Other blood suckers like mosquitoes lack these pain-reducing enzymes since their blood feeding strategy is more ‘quick in and quick out’. Besides, even if they did elicit pain and got shoo’d away, they’ve got wings to fly off to a different host. This is just one example of why some bites hurt while others go unnoticed.
Connect with TERC – together we can help stop the spread of tickborne disease!