When to Get a Tick Tested
You should strongly consider having your tick tested if:
- The tick was attached to your body, not simply crawling around
- You live in or have visited a place where there are infected ticks
Lyme disease has been reported in 49 US states and 65 countries around the world. Infected ticks have been found in 42 of 58 California counties. See here for a CDC map showing geographic reporting of Lyme disease.
In addition, tick testing may be especially important if there is skepticism about the presence of Lyme disease in your community.
If you are showing symptoms call your doctor immediately. Take the tick with you and ask your doctor about a tick test. Keep in mind that symptoms may take weeks or longer to appear. It may also take several weeks to get back the results of a tick test.
Note: tick testing is not a substitute for clinical diagnosis. Tick testing provides information about whether and/or what pathogens the tick may be carrying and about potential risk to the individual bitten by the tick, but it is not an assessment of human infection. You should consult your doctor for medical advice or treatment.
How to Get a Tick Tested
Ticks can be tested dead or alive (check with the providers below regarding specific testing capabilities). If you have removed a tick and want to have it tested, you have two options:
- Store it on a damp paper towel or cotton swab in a sealed plastic vial or ziploc bag.
- Securely attach the tick with tape to a piece of paper.
If the tick is already dead, there is no need to keep it moist. DO NOT store the tick in alcohol as it may compromise the test results.
You may choose to save the tick for testing should you begin to experience symptoms, rather than have it tested immediately.
DO note the date and location of the tick bite. If possible you should record:
- Location where tick attached (i.e., name of park, city, residence/address)
- Location on body where tick was removed (e.g., lower right leg, back of neck, etc.)
- Any other details about physical symptoms or location where tick was encountered
Tick Testing Organizations—Where to Get the Tick Tested
There are many places to get a tick tested. You may go through your health provider or you may choose an independent laboratory. In addition, many state and local health departments offer tick testing. Depending on where testing is done, these tick tests may check for other tick-borne diseases besides Lyme.
The following is a partial list of independent laboratories that do tick testing. Most offer mail-based service if you are not local. Please contact the Labs directly for more information.
Laboratory of Medical Zoology
Fernald Hall, University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003
Offers 3-5 day turnaround for tick testing including Lyme and several other tick-borne diseases (Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Babesiosis, etc.). Fill out form on website, send in tick, receive answer via email.
Note: You may want to contact your local county vector control office. In most cases you can find these offices by simply searching for [your county] and [vector control]. These programs typically have educational materials and information about where and how you can get ticks tested.