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Tick Bites

Q I've been bitten by a tick. Should I see a doctor?
A Not necessarily. Although ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and other infections, the chances that you’ll get sick are slim. But you should carefully remove the tick within 48 hours of being bitten.

Which removal method is best? Forget holding a burned match to the tick: That increases your risk of infection. Instead, use good-quality tweezers to grab the tick as close to your skin as you can and pull it away gently without twisting or squeezing. Afterward, wash your hands and the wound. To be safe, seal the tick inside a plastic bag and put the bag in the fridge after labeling it with your name, the date, and the part of your body where you were bitten.

If you develop symptoms a few days or weeks later—a rash, chills, fever, nausea, sharp headache—visit a doctor and bring the tick. Treatment (usually antibiotics) is likely to be based on your symptoms, not on a test of the tick. But the tick can be a useful backup.

Preventing bites is best. When you hike, stick to the center of the trail and avoid tall grass. Tuck pants into socks and consider rubbing deet on skin and wearing clothes coated with permethrin, particularly in spring and summer. Most important: Check for ticks after all outdoor activities. Inspect your hairlines and beneath belts and skin folds—some ticks are smaller than poppy seeds.