Lyme Disease | Treatment

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What do I do if I find a tick on my skin?

Don't panic. Using a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick body as close to your skin as possible. Pull in a steady upward motion until the tick comes out. Be careful not to squeeze or twist the tick body. If any tick parts remain in the skin, you can leave them alone or carefully remove them the same way you would a splinter. Then apply an antiseptic to the bite area and wash your hands with soap and water.

After the tick is removed, call your doctor and report the tick bite. Your doctor may have you bring the tick in so he/she can identify it and estimate how long it may have been attached to your skin. Watch the bite area and the rest of your skin over the few months. If you get a rash, see your doctor. Be sure to tell your doctor that you were bitten by a tick and when it happened.

How is Lyme disease treated?

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics.

In most areas of the United States, the only people who need antibiotics are those who get sick and/or get a rash after being bitten by a tick. In a few areas of the country where Lyme disease is more common, an antibiotic to prevent Lyme disease can be given when a deer tick is estimated to be attached for more than 36 hours. These areas include Minnesota, Wisconsin, and some parts of New England and the Mid-Atlantic states.

If you are bitten by a tick and don't get sick or get a rash, you don't need antibiotics.

Early-stage Lyme disease responds very well to treatment. In most cases, 14 to 30 days of treatment with an antibiotic kills the bacteria. Your doctor will tell you how many days to take the antibiotic. It's important for you to take all the medicine your doctor prescribes to prevent the spread of Lyme disease to your joints, nervous system or heart. If you have problems with the medicine, do not quit taking it. Call your doctor and talk to him or her about your side effects.

Late-stage Lyme disease is also treated with antibiotics. It may be necessary to give the antibiotics intravenously (through an IV) at this stage. Medicine that reduces swelling and pain can ease arthritis associated with late-stage Lyme disease. If necessary, excess fluid can be drained from the affected joints.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 03/14
Created: 09/00

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