ZocdocAnswersHow long can a tick bite last?

Question

How long can a tick bite last?

I have a bite mark on my leg. I was bitten by a tick while walking in New York (downstate). It is itchy on and off so it has been scratched open several times. Also i was tested for lime a few weeks after the bite and the test was negative for antibodies. I am a 20 year old man and i have not been experiencing any symptoms of any kind of related illness to tick diseases.

Answer

As you are aware, ticks can unfortunately transmit several diseases to humans, including Lyme disease. If you were to develop a tick-borne illness, symptoms may become apparent right away or they could not show up for several weeks, months, or even longer. In particular, Lyme disease is sometimes missed in the early stages if a person does not have significant symptoms and instead only come to medical attention after he or she has developed signs of involvement affecting the heart or the central nervous system. The same can be true of other diseases transmitted by ticks. Based on the symptoms you have described, it seems that there are two key issues. First, you want to make sure that you don't develop a skin infection from scratching open the area of the bite. Even if the area is itchy and bothersome, it is better to try and use over-the-counter creams such as benadryl or calamine lotion to soothe the itching and prevent scratching that can cause a small break in the skin to become a more problematic infection. Second--and more important--if you saw the tick actually embedded in your skin it is always a good idea to visit your physician to discuss the possibility of prophylactic antibiotics. Even if you are feeling well, many physicians will treat patients with visually confirmed tick bites simply because it is easier to prescribe a short course of antibiotics than risk the development of something else down the road. Looking at Lyme antibody titers shortly after a tick bite can be misleading, as a positive result may not develop immediately after infection. Overall, if you know you have been bitten by a tick in a high-risk area, it is generally best to see your primary care physician to evaluate whether you should take a course of prophylactic antibiotics.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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