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Lyme Disease (cont.)

When Should Someone Seek Medical Care for Lyme Disease?

Seek immediate medical attention if you live in or have visited an area where Lyme disease is common and you experience a flu-like illness or develop a red or target-like (bull's eye) rash anytime from late spring to early fall. Prompt treatment at this early stage reduces the risk of further symptoms of Lyme disease.

  • Remove any attached ticks by pulling them off your body. The CDC recommends the following tick-removal process:
    • Grasp the tick with fine-tipped tweezers as close to the skin's surface as possible.
    • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick or mouth-parts may break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are cannot remove the mouth easily with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
    • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
    • If the tick is still alive, dispose of it by submersing 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.
  • However, removing ticks promptly is more important than how you remove them. If you cannot remove an attached tick, see a doctor, who will remove it.
  • You do not need to save the tick to get it tested. The CDC states this is generally not useful because even if the tick contains disease-causing organisms, it does not necessarily mean you have been infected with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease; and if you have been infected, symptoms will likely develop before tick testing results come back and you should be treated as soon as possible.
  • Following tick removal, see a doctor if any flu-like symptoms or rash develop within the next three weeks. If a rash develops, draw a line around it with ink that does not wash off (such as a Magic Marker or Sharpie) each day to see if it is growing.
  • Young children with fever and severe headache should see a doctor immediately, because these may be their only symptoms.
  • Outdoor workers and anyone whose hobbies or recreational activities place them in wooded or brush areas should be particularly aware of these symptoms because their environmental exposure increases contact with the deer tick and is a risk factor for contracting Lyme disease.

Lyme disease should be treated promptly. See a doctor or go to a hospital's emergency department immediately.

  • When the initial disease is not treated, your symptoms may go away, but additional late stage symptoms and complications of Lyme disease can occur months later.
  • When this happens, Lyme disease can affect the heart, muscles and joints, or the nervous system. Since these symptoms can occur with other diseases, be sure to tell a doctor about travel to areas with a high tick population or if you have any possible exposures to ticks (from pets, gardening, walking, or camping in wooded areas, etc.).

If you are pregnant and are bitten by a tick, see a doctor immediately. If you become infected with Lyme disease during pregnancy, the illness can infect the placenta and may result in stillbirth. Lyme disease is not transmitted through breast milk.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2017

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