5 Misconceptions About Tick Bites and Lyme Disease

What you need to know about identifying tick bites.

Ticks are just aren't just a nuisance. The tiny blood-sucking mites can carry a powerful punch of bacteria associated with Lyme disease. Bill Rawls, the medical director of rawlsmd.com, an online holistic health company, and author of the best-selling book “Unlocking Lyme” sheds light on common misunderstanding about tick bites and how to spot symptoms of a bite. 


Misconception No. 1: All ticks carry Lyme disease. Only a few species of ticks pass along the bacteria associated with Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, the biggest offender being the black-legged deer tick. Only a fraction of those ticks actually carry Borrelia, but all ticks do carry some microbes, some of which can result in other illnesses like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Keep a close eye out for tell-tale symptoms, including fever, headache and rash.

Misconception No. 2: The best way to remove a tick is by burning it. The proper way to remove a tick is to use a pair of fine-pointed tweezers — place them as close the skin as possible and grasp the tick’s mouth. Firmly pull the tick straight out of the skin. Wash the bite with soap and water.

Misconception No. 3: Lyme doesn’t exist where you live. If you live in the United States, Lyme isn’t far away. A recent report from Quest Diagnostics found that Lyme has been detected in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Misconception No. 4: If you remove a tick within 24 hours, your child won’t contract Lyme. Transmission risk is lower if the tick is removed within 24 to 48 hours, but there have been documented cases of people contracting Lyme disease in less than six hours. Plus, other tick-borne diseases may happen much more rapidly — within minutes after a tick has punctured the skin. A good rule of thumb: Remove a tick as soon as you discover it.

Misconception No. 5: You know your child has Lyme if you see a bull’s-eye rash. Only one third of people with Lyme disease develop a bull’s-eye rash, and some of those go unnoticed because they’re hidden under hair on the scalp. Watch for early symptoms of an acute Lyme infection, which include low-grade fever, occasional chills, fatigue, stiff neck, rash around the bite and transient muscle aches.


Michele Huggins is editor of Charlotte Parent magazine.