Infected deer ticks must feed for at least 24 hours before they can begin to transmit the lyme disease spirochete.
Therefore you should remove ticks as soon as possible. Ticks that are removed promptly are unlikely to transmit disease organisms. Take a shower after outdoor activity and check your body thoroughly, paying close attention to the armpits, the groin, and neck. Use the buddy system! Look for ticks nightly, especially if you have young children. Remove ticks with tweezers only (bent, "needlenose" tweezers are best).
Ticks embedded in the skin should only be removed by grasping the tick with pointed tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently pulling backward until the tick becomes dislodged. Attempts to remove attached ticks with noxious chemicals or by burning will not work and may cause injury to the skin. After the tick has been removed, wash the skin area thoroughly and disinfect the bite with rubbing alcohol or povidone iodine to avoid infection.
Save the live tick for identification. Place the tick in a small container of alcohol. Record the date the bite occurred, where on the body the bite occurred, as well as the location where the tick was acquired.
Tick-borne Diseases Program of the Monmouth County Mosquito Extermination Commission provides the service of Tick Identification and Testing as part of an on-going research program. Ticks that are identified as the blacklegged tick can be tested for infection with the Lyme disease spirochete. The tick can be tested whether it is alive or dead. There is a $25 fee to cover the cost of the laboratory test.
It may also be helpful to mark on a calendar the day and location of the bite. Look for the development of a red rash, which may be an early symptom of Lyme disease. Such a rash, called erythema migrans, often starts as a flat or raised red area and slowly expands over several days. It may have a partial central clearing. Be aware, however, that not all infected individuals develop a rash. Other symptoms may include fatigue, headache, neck stiffness, pain or stiffness in muscles or joints, slight fever, swollen glands, or conjunctivitis. If you have a tick bite followed by a rash or any of these other symptoms, consult your physician.
Finding a tick-borne pathogen within a particular tick does not mean that transmission has occurred, since the duration of attachment is seldom known. In reality, it is usually the tick that you do not find or test that is involved in transmission! Therefore, always follow proper personal protective and prevention measures.