Archived Q&A and Reviews


Experience with tick bites?

March 2015

This week I found out I was bitten by a tick. Actually found the tick on/in me. My husband was able to remove most of it but it had burrowed in and I believe that part of the head is still in me. I went to Kaiser and my MD said not to attempt to remove it, gave me a topical antibiotic ointment to use for 7 days. I took a blood test which came back negative, and she wants me to take another in 3 weeks. I also brought what was left of the tick to the lab, but they sent me an email which said they couldn't examine it since the speciman was ''incomplete''. I know someone who had Lyme Disease...wasn't diagnosed for over a year and had to take doxicycline for 3 months.

Does anyone have any experience with a tick bite? My MD saw the tick and said most likely it was a dog tick, not a deer tick which is the one that causes Lyme Disease. Also, she said the deer ticks are very small and difficult to see. Thinking I probably got it from the dogs or just outside gardening. Any advice would be appreciated. Tick be gone

Deer ticks are the size of a period in a magazine. If it was bigger than that, it's not a deer tick. Anon.

As a native of the East Coast I share your fear of Lyme Disease (it's everywhere there). It's really good you're being vigilant. To give you some relief/hope though, the percentage of ticks in our area that test positive for Lyme is only like 1% and, at least as of 2011, 96% of Lyme cases were from the East Coast. While incidents are on the rise out West, the odds are still in your favor. Still good to test though- it's the cases that don't get caught early that end up being the most devastating. Safety in the numbers

Lived all my life in the East Bay and Berkeley and ticks are just a way of life here. We usually find one of two per year on someone in our family since I was a kid. Most of the time we just pull them out and the head breaks off. It's not big deal. In a few days the head we work it's way out and the bite will heal without a scar. Just dab on Neosporin or Triple Antibiotic Ointment twice a day.

If you have pictures of the remains of the tick anyone who has lived in the Bay Area and has had to deal with tick would be able to tell you right away if it's a dog tick or not.

Right now it's tick season in the hills as well as in the city and urban areas. It fairly common for dogs who were walked in the hills to bring the spread the tick in the city. The ticks cling to shrubs and catch a ride on your clothes.

When we go for hikes in the hills we preform tick inspections on each other when we get home. Be sure to look in the folds of clothing, socks and in your shoes. If you've had one you are in an area where you're bound to have more.

It's nothing to panic over. This is tick season so expect to find others. You will find the can be carried into your home on clothing. ANON

Wow they did a lymes test? You dont really need that if you have no symptoms and no bulls eye rash, AND you've been bitten by the wrong kind of tick.

As someone who's pulled many ticks out of their body, I can tell you, I understand your fears, but you really don't need to worry. If you have no rash and you don't suddenly come down with horrendous joint aches, you're fine.

In the future, always pull ticks out very slowly so the head doesn't get detached.

Also, to avoid getting bitten in the first place, stay out of high grass and other underbrush. Ticks can't jump, they clamber on you as you rub up against plants. Do a tick ''check'' at the end of the day. avid CA hiker

Deer ticks are really small and folks that get Lyme often have the classic bulls-eye rash--but not always. Proper blood tests for Lyme are extensive and done by specialty labs. I did the 3 months on Doxycycline and it is no fun!! If treated early a week or two on Doxy should suffice with no ill effects if a pro-biotic is used. Why not just treat it to be sure? Why risk it at all? Coming back in 3 weeks for more inadequate basic blood testing seems taunting the devil and will insure you are destined to 3 months or more on Doxy if they then decide to then get concerned. Some schools of thought claim once it goes untreated it is very difficult to eradicate and perhaps is impossible. Not worth the risk!

Granted Lyme isn't real prevalent here, your tick was large and not a deer tick, and you don't have the rash. Even so, Lyme does happen here and a dog (or deer)bitten by a deer tick can also be bitten by the larger tick that bit you. Just too many variables involved. If I were you I would go to a Lyme specialist or private clinic and get a prescription for Doxycycline for a couple weeks. If you feel fine after that great, if not have a professional lab run the full blood panels and even a lumbar puncture if you are still concerned. Lyme is such a horrific disease if untreated. Better safe than sorry. been there

Hi! Tick bites are not that unusual if you're outdoorsy--someone in my family gets one once a year. We do a lot of hiking in Tilden, and we have a dog, who of course gets them more than anyone, so I've become pretty good at removing them. So I'm just here to say it's not that uncommon to get a tick, and Lyme disease is not that common in the ticks out here on the West Coast, and if you haven't had any weird redness (like a bull's-eye) around the tick bite site I would relax! You've even been to the doctor and sent the tick in for testing, which is more than I've ever done, and I've taken 3 out of my kid and 2 out of myself! Sarah

Information about ticks in Alameda County can be found here: http://www.acvcsd.org/services/vectorborne/tick-borne.htm Natalia

Getting ticks from the dog - natural tick repellent?

May 2009

We have a small dog and take very benign walks -- down the street, to the park, in the backyard; we're not out trekking in the headlands, and yet our dog has started bringing in ticks for the first time (is it a bad tick season?). What's bad is that the dog sleeps on the bed at night. Okay, he sleep IN the bed at night, next to me. So, the ticks have been crawling onto me at night. I've consistently found one or two on me in the last few nights. Two on my face last night. Yuck! (One attached last week. Discovered it while showering, nearly ran out of the house naked, screaming.) Worse yet, our three year old occasionally joins us in bed. Kick the dog out of bed, yes. But I'd love to get rid of the ticks, period. Would hate to find any on my son, and am having a hard time as it is sleeping at night (that's another post), every little tickle wakes me up. I've used Advantage for fleas, and recall it being very strong, toxic. I don't want that kind of stuff in my house, on our hands, around my son. Anyone know of a natural tick repellent? Does rose geranium work? itchy in marin

I've had dogs in the Bay Area for many years, and now also a kid. I've had many tick bites, too, over the years. The good news is, though I'm not a doctor my understanding is that a tick has to be imbedded in your skin for 24 hours to transmit disease to you. [Editor note: this is incorrect - see below] Also the American Dog Tick (the flat red ones with the white spot) are the most common ones I've seen here, (and the ones I've had on me, pretty much exclusively) and they don't stick their mouth parts into your skin like the Black- legged ticks do, so they are easier to remove without leaving a huge wound.

It's going to be a pretty bad tick season this year, due to all the rain. The worst of tick season is May through July or August, and since we had all that wet weather the last couple of months, the beginning of the season this year might be worse than usual.

Eucalyptus oil is a natural tick and flea repellent (though nothing works as well as the nasty chemicals--in my experience, however, Advantage works for fleas but not really for ticks). The best bet, however, is to check your dog over each evening, to get the ticks while they're still walking around. (luckily, your dog is small, you said--I used to have three large dogs, and the nightly tick-check could take an hour!) Just kind of riffle through his fur, especially around the neck and ears--my dog loves the tick-check ritual, it's his nightly petting session. We also avoid Tilden park and Briones park in May and June--they seem like the worst tick spots. If you live in the hills, then you probably have lots of ticks just in the neighborhood, too. My toddler is in copycat mode, and she often sits down next to the dog, digs her fingers down into his fur, plucks out an imaginary tick, and then runs to the toilet to flush it down...very funny. But really, the tick-check can be kind of a fun little ritual. I grew up back East, and all summer we kids had to line up with our heads bowed for a tick check before coming in from playing outside... another dog lover, tick hater

There are a couple good natural insect repellents (including ticks) that I've researched recently: Repel Lemon Eucalyptus: lasts longer, but not for use on kids under 3. Bite Blocker: doesn't last as long, but truly natural and can use on young kids. Here's a link to some reviews: http://www.consumersearch.com/insect-repellent I also did a quick search and found that you can get Bite Blocker for dogs. You would need to apply it weekly. Here's a link: http://www.treehuggersrus.com/product/048350 The Repel Lemon Eucalyptus can be sprayed on dogs and I've read a few reviews (drugstore.com, epinions) that say it works very well. I haven't seen any reviews on Bite Blocker for dogs. Hope that helps!

I just read about this is in this month's issue of Body & Soul magazine. They had a little feature on natural insect/pest repellents. So to repel ticks, it's lemon eucalyptus oil. Put 20 drops of essential oil in water & spritz on the affected areas. Leilani

Unfortunately, I don't have any solutions for you as to a tick repellant, but I just wanted to correct a few statements about ticks from a previous poster. You should know that you can contract lyme disease from a tick in hours -- it does not need to be embedded in your skin for at least 24 hours. Also, while the American Dog Tick is not known to transmit lyme disease, it can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia, and other nasty diseases.

If you find a tick embedded in you or a family member, your best bet is to remove the tick promptly and have it tested (check with your vet or with your county's health department). You should know that less than half of those with lyme disease get the classic bullseye rash -- so don't wait around for symptoms to appear -- if you can save the tick and have it tested, do it!

For more info, check out the California Lyme Disease Association's website: www.lymedisease.org. Informed

Co-existing with ticks

Dec 2008

We’ve just moved to an area in the hills, which is beautiful and quiet - and apparently full of ticks. The dog picks up several every day, just from our yard, and I pulled an engorged one off my 7 year old’s scalp last week. I’ve done my research online (including BPN), and understand that the risk of Lyme disease is quite low (we sent the tick in for testing anyway) - but am really wondering how people living in the east bay hills deal with this on a day to day basis. Am I really going to be doing tick checks on my boys every night for the next fifteen years? Can you really find the nymphs on a kid’s head - a kid with dark, curly hair? Are people using DEET and other repellants on their kids? I’m feeling like I’ll never be able to catch them all; especially with young kids who won’t necessarily know/remember to look for a tick or let me know every time their heads are itching. And, given that the ''bullseye'' rash doesn't always turn up on kids, I'm afraid I'll miss the early warning signs.

Any advice, reassurance, or experiences from parents or entymologists would be really really welcome! Thank you! feeling itchy

I can relate! I found two in my house last night. Every year at this time I get paranoid about each dark spec I find on the floor or wall. I normally don't mind a few bugs in the house but I battle the ticks. We have indoor/outdoor cats and give them Frontline every month. That keeps the ticks from biting the cats but the animals still bring them in the house where they pose a threat to us and my crawling/walking 1 y.o. We try to vacuum a lot and check ourselves religiously. We haven't resorted to a spray. (Is there a Frontline for humans?) One thing that helped is we fenced our entire property a few years ago and that keeps the deer out and reduces the number of ticks they were bringing in (but doesn't wipe them out completely). The tick season lasts November-January/February and then goes away. We've developed a black humor about it, sort of ''here come the holidays, here come our tick friends'' and have learned to deal with it. We haven't been bitten yet (but paranoid me thinks it's only a matter of time, especially my kid who spends so much time on the floor). It's unpleasant and gross and potentially threatens our health. I'm looking forward to others' suggestions! Lafayette mama

Lyme's disease comes from deer ticks, which are as small as the head of a pin. If your child (or you) get a red ring on your skin, that can be an indicator of Lyme's disease. As far as I know, regular ticks do not carry Lyme's disease (not that you want them to bite you). Precaution -- wearing long clothing outdoors and trying to keep your dogs groomed and tickless will be best. good luck! Tamar

Regarding living in tickland: We really did explore each other's heads every night for ticks, combing and rooting like the other primates, and it came to be a fairly pleasant grooming ritual. All of us (4) groomed each other's hair while body checks were left to one's own body as they got older. We never did reach an age where they didn't sometimes ask to have their backs looked at. In the woody areas we didn't wear tick repellent, but always wore good high socks and shoes. Feet and necks we searched especially well. Peg M

Hi I don't have exactly the same experience, but maybe you can find some of this helpful. We used to summer in a tick-infested area. It started with just the larger ticks that spread Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, but soon after house development started in deer territory, the ticks that carry Lyme moved into the area too. This is what we did.

Dog went to vet and got whatever flea/tick bath was available n the 1970's. Dog was checked nightly for ticks. No matter how hard we tried, from time to time we would find one of those engorged grapes crawling across the floor. YUCK.

We got checked nightly. Mom did us every night until we were old enough to responsibly do it ourselves and then we did tick check every night.

Fast forward 15 years. As a young adult in my early 20's, I spent a summer in the same tick-infested area. We did not have a dog nor did I spend any time with dogs. I also did not spend a lot of time outside that summer. Regardless, I got extremely ill with an unknown illness with flu-like symptoms. It came for 3 days and then went away. It came for a week and then went away. I slept 15 hours a day. I couldn't hold a job. Long story short, months later I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. I never had the bulls eye rash. I never had consistent flu-like symptoms. My entire family got tested. My mother had extremely high blood levels and the only symptom she had was arthritic thumbs. We were lucky as we seem to have no lingering effects, but some people get the disease and it ruins the rest of their lives!

If I lived in a tick-infested area, this is what I would do.

1. No pets.
2. If you absolutely HAD to have pets, don't let them in my house. I would make sure they were on a routine tick bath with the vet.
3. GOOD bug repellent whenever I was outside. Long pants, long sleeves.
4. Tick check every night. Kids and pets. It is almost impossible to see the lyme disease ticks, but some people find them.
5. Yearly blood work up with test for Lyme by reputable doctor and reputable center. Not sure if any of those exist here. On East Coast, there are many as they have long history with the disease.
6. Of course, go to Dr. with any weird symptoms flu, arthritis. I always get a lyme disease work-up if I am feeling bad.

Ticks are a nuisance, but with some active management, they won't get the best of you. Hope this helps.

I contracted Lyme Disease this year, right here in the Bay Area, so unfortunately I have become well-versed on all matters surrounding ticks. First of all, I wanted to commend you for taking this seriously and sending the tick that you found for testing.

You should know that there is no such thing as "tick season" in the Bay Area. Because of our mild climate, it is a year-round problem. Ticks have three life stages -larva, nymph, and adult-and it is the nymph (about the size of a poppy seed) that causes most human cases of Lyme Disease. Ticks feed on deer as well as all sorts of other wildlife, including squirrels, chipmunks, ground-feeding birds, and mice. You can reduce ticks on your property by pruning trees; removing overgrowth, brush and litter; and keeping your grass short. It may also help to put up a fence around your property and remove things that attract animals that host ticks (items like birdbaths, woodpiles, leaf piles, stonewalls).

In addition to these measures, you are really going to have to be vigilant about wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, and doing tick checks.

I also wanted to point out is that only about half of Lyme Disease patients develop a erythema migrans rash around their tick bite. The rash can look like a bullseye, but usually, most of these rashes are uniformly red areas. So please don't wait for a rash to develop before seeking medical care, and if you do get a rash, be sure to photograph it.

I don't mean to make you paranoid, but I think the best you can do is educate yourself a bit more on the subject. For more information on ticks and tick-control, check out: www.caes.state.ct.us (tick management handbook) www.lymedisease.org (California Lyme Disease Association) anon

Ticks - repellant for cats?

Jan 2007

Has anyone (pet owners esp) noticed greater tick activity this season? Our cat, who normally hardly even gets fleas, has been bringing home the ticks lately. I am wondering if the unusually warm weather is contributing to the problem. We started him on Advantage but that is apparently only flea preventive -- though it seems to have stopped ticks from attaching to him. Now they just hop off and could attach to us, ICK :( I'd prefer a product less toxic than the old school flea/tick powder if there is a reliable one out there. Any ideas or proven tips for preventing ticks for riding in on the cat (aside from keeping him locked in, which makes him sort of unhappy and quite vocal in his unhappiness) would be greatly appreciated... Leah

I have noticed a very active tick population in our area this year. Even on a leashed walk around a park, our dog is coming home with ticks crawling on her fur looking for a way in. Frontline Plus is just like Advantage but flea and tick. It works great and as long as we keep on schedule the ticks don't latch on. How to keep her from bringing them home on her fur is another problem entirely! anon

You should try Frontline or Advantix (not Advantage). When we got our dog in October, we noticed one or two ticks on her every day. We, too, were using Advantage. Our vet recommended Frontline and we're mostly pleased. I still saw ticks several times a week for a while but, knock wood, I haven't seen even one in a little over a month now. Good luck. Alicia

We used to live in Santa Cruz county near a state park and our cats would get ticks. Advantage won't work against ticks but Frontline will: http://www.arcatapet.com/item.cfm?cat=6826 . It's exactly like advantage (once-a-month application) but works on ticks too. Worked on our cats! Andi

Found a tick on my daughter

June 2004

For the first time in my life I've encountered a live tick. Icky! I removed the tick from my daughter on Monday. Now I'm watching her for any symtoms of Lyme disease. Has anyone in the Berkeley area developed Lyme disease recently? Or does any one know statistics on Lyme disease for East Bay? w

Before you worry about Lyme Diesease, be sure the tick you removed could be of the species that transmits it. Deer ticks transmit Lyme, and they are so tiny that one rarely even finds the offending tick. Here are some size descriptions from a quick Google search:

''The wood tick (dog tick) is the size of a watermelon seed and can sometimes transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Colorado tick fever. The deer tick is between the size of a poppy seed (pin head) and an apple seed, and can sometimes transmit Lyme disease.''

In other words, if the tick was large, you needn't worry. On the other hand, if it was small, you should also know that the medical literature says that Lyme Disease is grossly underdiagnosed in California because of the widespread erroneous belief among medical professionals that it is not endemic to the area. Anon