How long does it take for a tick bite to cause infection? If I remove the tick within 24 hours, am I safe? What about 72 hours? What if I just found the tick but don’t know when it first attached? These questions and many more come up all the time, particularly here in California where tick and Lyme disease awareness are just beginning to grow.
Standard protocol has been to consider the risk quite low if the tick is removed within a 24-72 hour window. However, in this study by the California Lyme Disease Association and the Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District, the authors point out the importance of early and proper removal of any and all ticks. Bacterial transmission has occurred in as little as 6 hours. Even in areas with low tick-infection rates, it is critical to remove the ticks as early as possible to minimize the likelihood of transmission into the human or animal. Nymphal ticks that emerge in early spring are much smaller than adult ticks (barely the size of a poppy seed!) and are the most likely to pass on Lyme disease to humans, in part because they so often go unnoticed.
If you are out in tick-infested areas — hiking, gardening, biking, playing, walking your dog … be sure to tick check, every time! See here for more suggestions about how to keep you and your family safe this spring.