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 Are Tick Bites Harmful?

  • Ticks are common in the United States, as well as throughout Canada. Tick bites in Ontario are specific to: National Urban Park and Morningside Park in the Greater Toronto Area, Brighton, Kingston and surrounding areas, Thousand Islands, Brockville, Perth-Smiths Falls and surrounding areas, Ottawa and surrounding areas, and Rondeau Provincial Park in Morpeth.
  • Ticks live outdoors in:
    • Grass
    • Trees
    • Shrubs
    • Leaf Piles
  • Ticks are attracted to people and pets and easily move between animals and humans. Most people have encountered ticks before in their travels.
  • Most tick bites are harmless, they don't cause symptoms and many may not know that they have been bitted. However, some ticks can cause allergic reactions, or pass diseases (such as Lyme's) disease to humans which can be dangerous or deadline.
  • It is important to learn how to recognize a tick bite, what to look out for and what to do.


What areas put me at risk for Tick Bites and Lyme's Disease?

Lyme Disease risk areas map. Text version below.


U.S. map reported cases of Lyme Disease at a county-wide level


Adapted from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (


What do Ticks look like

  • Ticks are small, blood-sucking bugs. They can range in size from as small as a pin’s head to as large as a pencil eraser. Ticks have eight legs. They’re arachnids, which means they’re related to spiders.
  • The different kinds of ticks can range in color from shades of brown to reddish brown and black.
  • Black Legged Ticks are the ticks we get concerned about in regards to the spread of Lyme's Disease
  • As they take in more blood, ticks grow. At their largest, ticks can be about the size of a marble. After a tick has been feeding on its host for several days, they become engorged and can turn a greenish-blue color.
  • Looking out for engorgement from an adherent Tick is an important sign to tell your doctor

Where do ticks bite people?

  • In general ticks prefer warm and moist areas such as in your groin, armpits or within your hair on your scalp.
  • Once a tick finds a desirable spot, they will latch onto the skin and begin sucking blood.
  • A tick that remains adherent for days can suck so much blood that it becomes engorged. This sign gives you a timeline as to how long it has been there.
  • Unlike most bug bites, ticks remain attached and need to be physically removed. Only after a very long period of time, 10 or more days, will a tick fall off on their own.

What are the symptoms of a tick bite?

Tick bites are usually harmless and may produce no symptoms. However, depending on the person you may experience some or all of the below symptoms:

  • Local Symptoms occurring on the Skin
    • Pain 
    • Swelling
    • Redness
    • Development of Rash
    • Burning Sensation
    • Blisters
  • Systemic Symptoms
    • Breathing Difficulties
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Widespread Hives
    • Feeling Unwell
  • Tick Borne Disease Symptoms
    • Red Spot or Rash near the Bite
    • Full Body Rash
    • Neck Stiffness
    • Headache
    • Nausea
    • Weakness
    • Muscle or Joing Pain
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Swollen Glands/Lymph Nodes


When should I speak to a doctor if I have been bitten by a Tick?

  • Seeking medical attention is very important within the first 24-72 hours after a tick bite.
  • Timing to potential medical treatment is crucial in the first 3 days
  • Your doctor will review your symptoms, timing of the tick bite, your geographic region and determine whether antibiotics are necessary.
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Tick Borne Illnesses and Tick Bites

  • Ticks can transmit disease to human hosts which can be very serious.
  • Most signs or symptoms of a tick-borne disease will begin to occur within a few days to a few weeks after a tick bite. It’s important to see your doctor as soon as you can after a tick bite, even if you don’t have symptoms.
  • If at any point after a tick bite you begin experiencing unusual symptoms such as fever, rash, or joint pain, it’s important that you seek medical care right away. Let your doctor know that a tick recently bit you.
  • Your doctor will complete a thorough history, exam, and testing to determine whether your symptoms are the result of a tick-borne disease.


How are tick bites treated? REMOVE THE TICK FIRST!

  • The most important thing to do when you find a tick on you is to remove it. You can remove the tick yourself with a tick removal tool or with a set of tweezers. Follow these steps:
    • Grasp the tick as close as you can to your skin’s surface.
    • Pull straight up and away from the skin, applying steady pressure. Try not to bend or twist the tick.
    • Check the bite site to see if you left any of the tick’s head or mouth parts in the bite. If so, remove those.
    • Clean the bite site with soap and water.
    • Once you’ve removed the tick, submerge it in rubbing alcohol to make sure it’s dead. Place it in a sealed container.
    • Ticks can be returned to the lab for analysis


How are tick bites treated? ANTIBIOTICS AND PROPHYLAXIS

  • The most important thing to do if you get bitten by a tick is remove it and contact your healthcare provider: Click Here to Book a Doctor's Appointment Now Virtually. Please use this information ONLY AS REFERENCE AND NOT AS DIRECT MEDICAL ADVICE
    • If the tick was not attached there is little to no risk of Lyme's 
    • If the tick was safely removed and is NOT a blacklegged tick there is little to no risk of Lym'e's Disease
    • If the Tick was attached for less than 24 hours, your Risk is low and you can monitor for symptoms for 20 days
    • If the Tick was attached for more than 24 hours, and you are in an at-risk area, antibiotics should be considered in the first 72 hours
  • Post-Exposure Prophylaxis
    • The risk of developing Lyme disease following a tick bite by an infected tick is between 1% and 3%.
    • In Ontario, the prevalence of infected ticks varies by geographic region. In many instances, it is reasonable to adopt the “wait and see” approach and treat patients if they develop symptoms compatible with Lyme disease. Counsel patients to watch for the development of early signs and symptoms for 30 days, and advise patients that other tick-borne infections may result in signs or symptoms too

What are the symptoms of Lyme's Disease?

  • Erythema Migrans Rash (70%)
  • Fatigue (54%)
  • Myalgia (44%)
  • Headache (42%)
  • Fever/Chills (39%)
  • Stiff Neck (35%)
  • Decreased Appetite (26%)

Preventing Infections from a Tick Bite

  • The most important thing to do when thinking about infection prevention is to avoid the tick-borne illness in the first place
    • When in forestry or the bush where long sleeve shirts and pants
    • Walk in the center of trails
    • Use tick repellent that's at least 20% DEET
    • Treat clothing and gear with 0.5% permethrin
    • Take a shower or bath with in 2 hours of being outdoors and inspect your skin thoroughly
    • Check skin closely - especially in tick prone areas (behind ears, under arms, in hair, between legs and behind knees)
  • It typically takes over 24 hours of feeding for a tick carrying disease to infect a person. So, the sooner a tick can be identified and removed, the better.



What antibiotics should I take for a tick bite?

  • Common antibiotics used for tick bites as prophylaxis or for treatment of Lyme's Disease include:
    • Doxycycline
    • Amoxilcillin
    • Cefuroxime
    • Azithromycin (if allergies to above)
    • Clarithromycin (if allergies to above)
    • Erythromycin (if allergies to above)
  • Please note that children under the age of 8 should be evaluated prior to consideration of antibiotics as Doxycycline is contraindicated.

Do I need to be test for Lyme's Disease?

  • Laboratory testing is not indicated for asymptomatic patients
  • Serological testing may not yield positive results during early localized Lyme disease, so management should not be based on serological testing results 
  • Antibiotic treatment in early disease may reduce seroconversion; testing should not be used to monitor treatment outcome
  • Following exposure to Borrelia burgdorferi, immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies are detected within 2–4 weeks, and IgG antibodies within 4-6 weeks
  • If European Lyme disease is suspected based on the patient’s travel history, please order serology testing specific to European Lyme disease.