Ticks carry many diseases. For example, deer ticks may carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease (see Bacterial Infections: Lyme Disease). Other types of ticks may carry the bacteria that cause rickettsial or ehrlichial infections (see Rickettsial and Related Infections: Overview of Rickettsial Infections). The bites of pajaroello ticks, which are present in Mexico and the southwestern United States, produce pus-filled blisters that break, leaving open sores that develop scabs.
Mite infestations are common and are responsible for chiggers (an intensely itchy rash caused by mite larvae under the skin), scabies (see Parasitic Skin Infections: Scabies), other itchy rashes, and a number of other disorders. The effects on the tissues around the bite vary in severity.
Ticks should be removed as soon as possible. Removal is best accomplished by grasping the tick with curved tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pulling it directly out. The tick's head, which may not come out with the body, should be removed, because it can cause prolonged inflammation. Most of the folk methods of removing a tick, such as applying alcohol, fingernail polish, or petroleum jelly or using a hot match, are ineffective and may cause the tick to expel infected saliva into the bite site.
Some mite infestations are treated by applying a cream containing permethrin or a solution of lindane. A cream containing a corticosteroid is sometimes used for a few days to reduce itching caused by mite infestations. If permethrin or lindane is used, it is given before the corticosteroid.
Last full review/revision February 2009 by Robert A. Barish, MD, MBA