Most of us have brushed up against a tick at some point in our lives. They hide in tall grass waiting for the first warm body to grab on and bite. But just how painful are tick bites? Can you feel a tick bite?
You probably won’t feel a tick bite and burrow into your skin. Since a ticks feeding cycle lasts 2-3 days it can’t alarm its host with a painful bite, but you may eventually develop a rash. Try to inspect and feel around your body after traveling through tall grass and other areas infested with ticks.
How do you know if you’ve been bitten by a tick if their bites don’t hurt? Unfortunately, it can be quite challenging to identify a bite after the tick has detached from the host.
In the rest of this article I’ll explain a few ways to identify, find and remove ticks to prevent the spread of Lyme Disease.
What Does a Tick Bite Feel Like?
Ticks can’t fly, jump, or fall down from trees. In fact, they don’t move very fast at all. A tick sits in tall grass with it’s front legs extended waiting to latch onto the first warm body to walk past.
To get onto your body, they climb up tall grass, foliage, legs, branches, etc. They’ll climb up and wait on any object that’s close to the ground. As you brush past the, the “questing” tick will grab onto your leg or pants and search for the first area of open skin they can find.
They really like those tucked away places like the back of your knee, armpit, hairline, groin, ankle and the edges of your clothes. A tick is actually a tiny little spider that crawls around your body looking for exposed skin.
Once latched onto your skin, they’ll stay and feed on your blood for several days and you probably won’t even notice. A tick bite really doesn’t feel like much.
While feeding you might feel a tiny bump when you rub over your skin, but there won’t be any pain. Ticks don’t burrow completely under the skin so you should see a tiny fat tick butt sticking out. You might develop an itchy/painful rash once the tick finishes feeding and detaches.
Finding and removing ticks within the first 24 hours is crucial to preventing tick-borne illness like lyme disease. Continue reading below for a short video explaining how to safely and easily remove a tick.
How Do You Know If You Have Been Bitten by a Tick?
Figuring out if you’ve been bitten by a tick can be tricky. Unlike other biting insects, tick bites shouldn’t itch or cause immediate skin irritation. I’d be willing to be you’ve been bitten by a tick at some point in your life and not even realized.
Most insects inject anti-clotting proteins into your arm, which causes an immediate reaction from your immune system, but ticks are different. Since ticks take a few days to feed they try to suppress that reaction by introducing immunosuppresants into your blood stream so you won’t feel their bite.
Since you can’t feel anything it can be difficult to detect a ticks bite. You need to either spot or feel the tick on your skin while it’s feeding, or visually identify the ticks bite once the tick falls off on its own.
How Do You Tell if You Have a Tick In Your Skin?
Finding a tick is easy if it’s still attached. I recommend taking a shower when you get home from tick infested areas. A shower serves 2 main purposes. It makes them much easier to spot and you can wash away ticks that haven’t already latched on.
Checking Yourself For Ticks
Look for small black or brown dots about the size of a poppy seed. Adult ticks can be slightly bigger, but they will still be difficult to see. Use a hand mirror or ask a loved one to check difficult to see areas.
Run your hands over the parts of your body where ticks usually bite. Focus on the creases in your skin. Behind your knees, elbows, ankles, armpits, waistline, neck and hairline. They’ll feel like a small hard bump on your skin. Kind of like a tiny little pebble latched onto your skin.
What Does a Tick Bite Look Like?
Tick bites won’t immediately itch like other biting insects, but they can still cause painful red welts and itchy patches of skin. There’s nothing to worry about if the tick wasn’t carrying lyme disease or some other infection. A tick bite usually won’t look much different than your typical mosquito bite.
The only time you should worry is if you notice an itchy lesion that won’t go away within 2-3 days. That could indicate a tick-borne infection like lyme disease.
Pay special attention to bulls-eye shaped lesions like the one pictured above. That’s a tell-tale sign of lyme disease and you need immediate medical attention. Lyme disease is incurable if you don’t catch and treat it within the first 2-3 weeks.
Removing a tick
What If I find a tick attached to my skin? Don’t Panic! Removing a tick early should help prevent tick-borne illness. There’s almost zero risk of catching lyme disease if you remove a tick within the first 24-36 hours.
There are a bunch of different tick removal devices on the market. Tweezers are the recommended tool for humans, but I recently bought a product called The Tick Key, because my dogs are afraid of tweezers. It’s basically fool proof to use and it’s even easier to use than my tweezers.
You really don’t need any fancy tool to remove a tick. All you need is a set of cheap dollar store tweezers. Watch the following video or continue reading below for written instructions.
- Use a pair of fine tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible.
- Slowly pull up using steady even pressure. Try not to twist or overly squeeze the tick because you can break off parts of the ticks mouth which may lead to infection.
- Once the tick is removed inspect the area looking for parts of the ticks mouth. Don’t worry if you weren’t able to get everything out. Leave it alone, clean the area and give your skin time to heal.
- Use soap and water or rubbing alcohol to clean the area after removing the tick.
- Dispose of a live tick by flushing it down the toilet or placing it in rubbing alcohol. Never crush a tick using your fingers since it will expose you to bacteria.
Watch For a Rash
Don’t bother running to the doctor immediately after getting bit by a tick. Only contact the doctor if you develop a rash or fever in the following 2-3 weeks. A bullseye like rash is a telltale sign of Lyme disease, but any rash could be a sign of infection.