7 Myths About Ticks and Tick Bites

Posted by Tyler Weber on Wednesday, May 1, 2024
Keywords: myths about ticks and tick bites

Now that you’ve completed your checklist of things to do and clean during spring, it’s time to look forward to the upcoming summer months. Along with the hiking, swimming, fishing, and other anticipated summer activities come inherent dangers–like ticks!

Plenty of people are cautious about protecting themselves against ticks. But some of those precautions are born from myths passed down through generations. Not all these myths are accurate, and some can even be harmful.

We’ll explore the most common myths about ticks and tick bites so you know what to look for. 

Tick Bite Myths

Everyone has heard a myth or two about ticks and tick bites, but many of them are easy to believe unless you’ve done some research yourself.

Here are some of the most common myths and the truth about them:

1. Ticks are inactive in the winter. This is easily one of the most commonly held myths about ticks. While it’s true that the majority of tick bites occur during the summer, this is because of human behavior more than tick activity. 

The increase in tick bites during these months correlates with more people spending more time outdoors, not necessarily because ticks are significantly more active in the summer. Ticks look for hosts year-round, so it’s necessary to take precautions whenever you venture into wooded, grassy, or bushy areas.

Overall, while summer months see more human-tick interactions due to outdoor activities, ticks remain active year-round.

2. Only female ticks bite. All ticks bite, regardless of age or sex. However, female ticks drink until they’re engorged, which is why they’re most commonly found in humans. Male ticks only hang out on their hosts long enough to find a mate.

3. Lyme Disease is the only transmissible disease humans can contract from ticks. While it is an incredibly dangerous disease, it’s not the only illness humans can develop from being bitten. Other serious diseases carried by ticks include tularemia, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

4. Using a heat source is the most effective way to remove a tick. Some people believe using a heat source will make a tick “back out,” preventing the head from getting stuck in the skin. Using a lighter or another heat source to force a tick to leave the host isn’t a safe or effective idea. 

Not only does the person risk burning themself, but it can also push infected saliva into the bite, increasing the risk of infection.

5. Ticks burrow under the skin. When a tick bites a host, the skin around the bite swells up, giving the impression of the tick burrowing under the skin. However, ticks feed until they become full and then fall off, which takes 3-6 days.

6. If you’re infected, you’ll have a rash or bullseye around the bite. While this is one of the most well-known symptoms, it’s not the only indicator. Only 70-80% of people infected with Lyme Disease present with this symptom.

7. A tick bite automatically equals infection. Not all ticks carry diseases, and they aren’t always on a host long enough to transmit a disease even if they are carrying.

Do You Automatically Get Lyme Disease from a Tick Bite?

You won’t automatically become infected with Lyme Disease or other illnesses carried by ticks after a bit. However, Lyme disease is one of the most commonly recognized diseases ticks transmit, so it’s understandable that there is concern. 

Reach out to a healthcare provider immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms after being bitten by a tick:

  • Pain in the joints or muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Stiffness or swelling in the joints
  • Rash

Not all symptoms may appear immediately, and a delayed reaction is possible. Many of these symptoms are also common with other diseases transmitted by ticks. If you’ve been bitten by a tick recently and feel unwell, contact a healthcare provider.

How to Safely Remove a Tick

Removing a tick may be uncomfortable for those squeamish around bugs, but it’s not as complicated as many think. All you need is a pair of tweezers. Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull it free without twisting the tweezers. 

Dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet. Then, thoroughly clean your hands and the bite with warm water, soap, or rubbing alcohol. 

How to Protect Against Ticks

Ticks search for hosts year-round. They live on the ground, so avoiding ticks isn’t as simple as staying out of the woods. If you’re entering any grassy, wooded, or bushy area, you’ll want to be aware of ticks. 

Use sprays on your shoes and clothing to repel ticks. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and high boots are also helpful. Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks to keep ticks away from exposed skin. Consider wearing light-colored clothing to see ticks more easily–you’ll have a better chance of picking them off before they bite you.

Finally, check yourself and your pets for ticks after spending time outdoors.

What To Do After A Tick Bite

It’s understandable to be concerned after a tick bite. Make sure you remove the tick and clean the area thoroughly. If you'd like to keep the tick for identification purposes, you can place it in a sealed bag or container; otherwise, dispose of it by flushing it down the toilet.

Try not to be too concerned, but watch for symptoms. Contact a healthcare provider if you feel flu-like symptoms or notice a rash after a tick bite. Consider making a telehealth appointment to speak with a professional about your concerns. 

You can have your concerns addressed from the comfort of your own home, and we’ll let you know if you need to come in for further testing. Remember to stay vigilant, wear protective clothing, and use tick repellent outdoors.

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