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How Do I Treat an Infected Tick Bite?

By Malysa Stratton Louk
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Ticks feed on blood and spread infection, most commonly Lyme disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Tick bites may become infected in one of three ways: as a result of an infected tick, when removing the tick or during the process of healing. An infected tick bite must be treated to prevent further complications. They often can be treated at home with herbal remedies or over-the-counter products. Surface infections are often treated with antibiotic or antiseptic ointments while viral or blood infections — such as Lyme disease — require professional medical treatment.

Symptoms of an infected tick bite include redness and swelling around the bite area or the presence of pus at the infection site. The area should be thoroughly cleaned and examined to ensure the entire tick was removed. Taking garlic internally can help heal the infection via garlic’s natural antiviral and antibiotic properties. One should clean the area regularly with hydrogen peroxide and antibacterial ointments using either over-the-counter products or natural remedies. Pure essential oils or ointments containing lavender, eucalyptus or calendula may be helpful in treating an infected tick bite, while herbal poultices may be used to alleviate pain, swelling and itching and to promote healing.

Tick bites may cause internal bacterial infections such as Lyme disease and require immediate medical treatment from a qualified health care provider. The most common symptom of this type of infection is the presence of a bullseye lesion around the tick bite area or anywhere on the body between three and 30 days after the bite occurred. Additionally, a red, raised rash may be present on the torso, even if the bite occurred elsewhere on the body. Flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, chills, muscle weakness or stiffness, joint pain, fever, sore throat, an enlarged spleen or lymph glands and severe headaches are additional symptoms associated with Lyme disease. This type of infection requires oral antibiotic treatment and is most commonly treated with tetracycline, amoxicillin or erythromycin unless the infection has advanced to the point that it requires intravenous antibiotics.

Increasing the body’s natural immunity with echinacea, zinc and vitamin C may help to speed recovery. Acidophilus supplements may help to support the digestive system during antibiotic treatments. If an infected tick bite is not healing or if it is accompanied by a bullseye rash, fever or flu-like symptoms, immediate medical attention is required. If the infection is left untreated, it may spread and antibiotic treatment may not be as effective. One should contact a health care provider if the infection site is not healing, symptoms worsen or there are any concerns about personal health.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1001832 — On Jul 03, 2019

Ysmina is incorrect stating that you should see a doctor simply because of a bite. Think about it: the doctor will give you all sorts of tests, and many of them are not accurate at detecting, especially in the first few days. You will pay for many visits, and possibly get misdiagnosed. There are so many variety of skin conditions, allergies, and things that could be going on. If you are experiencing symptoms or problems that correlate with a disease, then see a doctor, but not just simply every time you get bit.

By bluedolphin — On Aug 25, 2013

@burcinc-- The antibiotic ointment should do the trick. If it's painful, swollen and itchy, applying a cold compress and aloe vera gel will help.

We have a lot of ticks around here too and I get bitten at least once or twice every summer. If you pull ticks out yourself, you should clean the area with soap and water and some rubbing alcohol afterward to kill germs.

If you get a tick bite rash, which has happened to me before, corticosteroid cream helps. But if things look bad, do see the doctor like the other poster suggested.

By ysmina — On Aug 24, 2013

@burcinc-- Regardless of what the bite looks like, I think everyone who gets bitten by a tick needs to see a doctor. And if possible, the tick should be saved in a small container to show to the doctor.

Unfortunately, most of us are not aware of the different types of tick bite diseases and some of these infections can be fatal if they're not treated in the first few days. I just read about a little boy who died from a tick infection in Texas the other day.

So I think you should see the doctor, even if you don't have symptoms of an internal infection. Have them clean the bite and give you antibiotics if necessary. It's better to be safe than sorry.

By burcinc — On Aug 24, 2013

I got bitten by a tick two days ago. I don't think the bite is severely infected but it's red and inflamed. I cleaned it with soap and water and applied antibiotic cream on it. Do I need to do anything else? By the way, I don't have symptoms of a tick bite that's associated with Lyme disease.

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