It’s official- we are smack dab in the middle of tick season. Technically, tick season starts as soon as the winter thaws. As the weather warms up and we spend more time outside, the risk of a bite rises substantially. Our mild winter means that the ticks got an early start to breeding in 2023, so this year especially, we must be especially vigilant!
Of course, the best thing you can do is take preventative measures, as we’ve outlined here. However, sometimes even when taking the utmost precaution, you might find a tick on your body. So, what’s next?
First thing first: don’t panic. Take a deep breath, and follow the steps I’ve outlined here. It’s going to be okay!
Remove the Tick
If you find a tick attached to your skin, the most urgent step is the immediate removal of the insect. While there are several tick removal devices available, such as a tick key, tweezers will work just as well. Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull upwards using steady force. The skin will tent a little until the tick pops off. While you may feel anxious, try not to twist or jerk, as this can cause parts of the tick to break off, and remain in the skin. When you’ve removed the tick, set it aside for now.
Clean the Wound
Your next step is to clean the wound left by the tick. Immediately after removing the tick, wash your hands with soap and water. Then, clean the area with a Betadine wipe (Povidone Iodine), immediately followed by an alcohol wipe. One caveat: Skip the Betadine if you are allergic to iodine, have a thyroid condition, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
When the wound is clean, mix bentonite clay (I like Trace Minerals Research brand available on fullscript) with water until a paste forms and apply it over the tick bite location. A few hours after application, the bentonite clay will fall off. At this point, you can apply a triple-antibiotic gel every 12 hours for 3 days.
Send the Tick for Analysis
Remember that tick you set aside prior to cleaning your wound? It’s important to keep the vector, as it can give you and your doctor valuable information about whether you may have contracted Lyme or another tick-borne illness. The first thing you can do is send a picture of the tick here to TickSpotters. They are a crowdsourced tick survey tool that gathers information on tick encounters and provides users with tailored risk assessment reports.
Even better than TickSpotters, you can send your tick in for analysis from places like ticknology.org, tickreport.com, or ticktests.com. When you mail a tick to a laboratory, they can perform tests to detect Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Usually, you’ll get your results in a matter of 3-5 days.
If No Symptoms
While you’re waiting to get the results on your tick, it’s important to remain vigilant to any newly developed symptoms. If you don’t notice any symptoms- that’s a great sign! However, it doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t contracted a tick-borne illness. Here’s what I recommend:
Astragalus 3000mg 2x/day in adults (1000-1500mg in kids)
Or 80 drops 2x/day
Ledum 200c 5 pellets 2x/per day
These are widely available products, and there are lots of brands that make and sell these products, so look for a high-quality manufacturer with a good reputation. I’ve seen the best clinical results with Herb Pharm and Boiron. Find them at our apothecary here (astragalus) and here (ledum).
If you weren’t able to save the tick or send it off for testing, I’d also strongly recommend adding Doxycycline 100mg 2x/day for 30 days, as there’s no way to eliminate the possibility of disease.
If Symptoms Appear
Unfortunately, symptoms may appear after a tick bite. These include, but are not limited to:
Fever and/or flu-like symptoms
Joint pain and/or swelling
Brain fog, headaches
Weakness or paralysis
Chest pain, palpitations, tachycardia
Trouble breathing, shortness of breath
You may also notice a rash surrounding the wound. While many associate this rash with the typical “bulls eye”, the rash can take many different forms. If you notice this, or any of the aforementioned symptoms, here’s what I recommend. You will need to see a provider in order to get a prescription for these medications.
Doxycycline 100mg 2x/day for at least 30 days, longer if symptoms continue
In children, this is based on weight.
If teeth change colors – change to Augmentin
If you are allergic to Doxycycline, you can use augmentin or cefuroxime 2x/day
(1) Probiomax DF and (2) Saccharomycin DF at bedtime (2 hrs apart from meds) to help protect the gut If this isn’t your first tick bite, consider adding in tinidazole 500mg BID for 3 days on, 4 days off
Gut protection with probiotics and detox/herxheimer protection will need to be added by your provider as well.
When the Results Come Back
When the results of your tick analysis come back it’s important to treat for each different kind of infection present on the tick regardless of symptoms. Because tick-borne disease can have such long-lasting and debilitating consequences, particularly when left untreated, it’s better to err on the side of caution after exposure.
Six Weeks Later
Six weeks after your bite, I’d still recommend exercising a careful watch for symptoms that may appear. Particularly, if you weren’t able to save your tick and send it off for testing. At this point, it’s been a long enough time that any infections will be detectable on a blood test. To monitor for any infections, regardless of symptoms, make sure to obtain a Western Blot Test (ideally, the Igenex TBD5IB panel). You can also check for other inflammatory and immune markers at your discretion.
It’s important to be “tick aware”, but with proper prevention and treatment, there’s no need to live in fear throughout tick season. Enjoy your favorite seasonal activities- just make sure to stay safe at the same time! Good luck- and have a great summer!