Tick FAQs

1. How do ticks bite without you feeling it?

Tick Frequently Asked QuestionsOur partner at the University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center (TERC) explains: Ticks actually numb the area before they bite. Their saliva contains a numbing agent,  called kinases, so you won't feel the bite. The area will remain numb the whole time the tick is feeding on a host's blood.

If you have been bitten previously, you may notice a small red bite mark, which can be itchy. If there is no tick at such a site, you may have already scratched it off without knowing it.

2. Is there a lab that I can send a tick to to see if it was carrying Lyme Disease prior to treating myself with the long series of antibiotics?

We have a number of places listed on our Tick Testing page. You can use our Tick Identification Chart to confirm that your tick is an adult deer tick. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC),Deer ticks are the only tick species that transmit Lyme in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central United States.

3. The tick biting me was nearly completely embedded under my skin. Does my doctor need to remove it?

Ticks can only penetrate your skin with their mouth parts, which are called hypostome. Their bodies are never embedded under the skin.

Don't wait to see a doctor to remove an engorged, biting tick. It is easy to remove a tick safely by using TickEase tweezers.

Don't worry if the head stays in, just disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol. You also might want to consider identifying and testing the tick for infection.

4. If I find a tick biting me, should I cover it with Vaseline, dish detergent, oil, nail polish remover or touch it with a hot match to get it to detach?

Absolutely not! These methods just agitate the tick. And that can cause it to spit its pathogens into the bite, putting you at even greater risk of tick-borne diseases.

The safest way to remove a tick is with a pointy tweezer like TickEase. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull straight up in a firm but slow and steady motion until it pops out of the skin. Clean the bite area thoroughly and consider saving the tick for testing.

5. If I rarely go outside, and never go in the woods, how did the tick biting me find me?

First, you should know that Black Legged ticks don't travel very far on their own, perhaps only one or two meters. However, they do get moved around by animals. Pets, particularly cats, are notorious for picking up a tick outside and then bringing it inside to humans.

If the tick attaches to your cat or dog's fur, it will not typically leave it, but if the animal comes inside or you pick it up, loose ticks crawling on the animals fur can easily transfer over to you. One helpful suggestion: comb or brush your dog or cat before they come into the house.

6. 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 three days of being bitten by a tick, many people will develop a red spot that never expands to bigger than a dime. 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 likely to be a sign that you are infected with the Lyme Disease agent. However, only about 35 percent of people who are infected with Lyme will develop the bullseye rash. And many people who get Lyme never recall a tick bite. 

7. Is it possible for a tick to become embedded in a person's scalp so deep that there is no lump there?

No! Ticks can only embed their hypostome or mouthpart into the skin. Their palps, which cover the hypostome to protect it when the tick is not feeding, fold back and prevent the tick from going any further into your skin. 

8. I just pulled a corn kernel looking tick off my 3 month old yorkshire terrier puppy, should I take her to the vet?

During the Fall and early Spring in the northeast, mid-Atlantic and upper mid-west, ticks that look like a "corn kernel" are most likely to be partially engorged female deer ticks -- most likely attached for about three days to look like a corn kernel. Their body generally looks pale at this stage and they have not started to swell up big.

If the dog has the Lyme disease vaccine, it may be fine. However, three days is long enough for a deer tick to transmit Lyme Disease bacteria and/or another serious disease called Aanaplasmosis. You could give your vet a call and see if they will take any prophylactic measures.

9. Today I pulled out a dog tick out of my scalp. It was relatively easy to pull out as I only used my fingers to slide it out of my hair. I determined it is a dog tick possibly adult, but fairly flat. Can this type of tick transfer any disease?

American dog ticks can be infected with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever rickettsia, other less pathogenic rickettsia, Colorado Tick Fever virus, and rarely, with the agent of tularemia.

Hopefully, the only concern is a bit of a tick bite. Any symptoms that develop require medical attention.

10. I was bitten by a tick recently. It was itching terribly, that is how I found the tick. I pulled it off. It was so small I could not identify it. The site is very swollen, still itches, is red, and seems to be spreading larger. Should I be alarmed or concerned about this bite?

It certainly sounds like a tick bite. In people that have previously been bitten by the same type of tick, there often is a histamine-mediated hypersensitivity reaction that occurs within 20-40 hrs of another tick bite. It's your body making a reaction to a foreign substance (tick saliva) that it has seen before.

In some people it can become quite severe--a localized anaphylaxis. It would be a good idea to see your primary medical provider, and be sure to mention your tick bite.

11. 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 three days, nymphs for three to four days, and adult females for seven to ten 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. Ticks change their appearance pretty dramatically as they feed - which can make identifying them challenging.

Host immunity also can impact duration of tick attachment as well. Prior sensitization to specific proteins in tick saliva can make it harder for ticks to ingest blood. Sometimes it causes them to stay attached a bit longer but more commonly, it makes the host itch and frequently the tick is removed by the scratching.

Source: TickEncounter.org