If you get bit, test the tick!

August 12, 2015

This month, the Centers for Disease Control published a new study (http://www.cdc.gov/eid/article/21/8/14-1878_article) revealing tick populations continue to spread in various parts of the country.  But whether you visit those places or not, ticks can come to you, carried either by wild animals (deer and mice) or domestic (dogs and cats).  Within my family, among my friends and in my practice, I have been dealing more and more with the consequences of tick bites. And one thing is clear; being prepared to respond to a known tick bite makes a huge difference in treatment and outcomes

It is very important to send the tick for testing. While treatment decisions should not be based solely upon the results, the information can only help.  While labs claim that tests are 100% accurate, what they are saying is that if they find the organism’s DNA, it is definitely present. But we don’t know exactly how good they are at finding the DNA.  Some think they are 60-70% accurate; some think more so.   We just don’t have that data.  Compared to waiting to get ill, and dealing with tests with a 40-50% accuracy, I think it can only help to test the tick.


 Make a Tick Kit; Keep it Handy


 Here is what your DIY Tick Kit should contain:

  • An envelope addressed and stamped to the lab of your choice
  • A completed requisition form for the lab you choose
  • A small zip-lock baggy
  • A small piece of paper towel to be moistened
  • A fine-nosed tweezers (only a fine-nose tweezers can be counted on for the smallest ticks.)


Correctly Remove the Tick

Learn the correct method for removing a tick. Squeezing the tick can send more potential infections into your system. And you must get the head out.  The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) has an instructional video on its site.  (http://www.ilads.org/lyme/what-to-do-if-bit-by-tick.php)


Get the Tick Tested

At the moment, testing for tick infections in humans is less accurate than testing the tick. Some labs state testing ticks for the presence of infective agents is 98% accurate. So, if you see the tick, get the tick. There are a number of labs to choose from.  I’ve made a list of several well-respected labs, their prices and what they test for, as of today.   Decide in advance which lab you want to use, so you don’t have to spend time researching after being bitten.


Choosing a Lab:  What do they look for?  All Labs are Not Equal!


  • All the labs test for Lyme, (borrelia). But only some test for Borrelia miyamotoi, which is increasingly found in US ticks and causes a Lyme illness marked by fevers.
    • Labs which test for Borrelia miyamotoi: Igenex, UMass, and UConn.
  • Bartonella is another common co-infection, and is very hard to detect in humans, because it hides out deep in tissues.
    • Labs which look for Bartonella: Igenex and Pharmasan Tic-Kit.


The Cost/Benefit of These Labs?

  •  If cost is not an issue, Igenex is the most thorough lab. In fact, considering how costly it is to get ill, Igenex is a good choice for the economically minded also, even with a significant up-front charge.
  •  If cost is an issue, the Tic-Kit is a very good buy. For $50 or so, you can get your tick tested for 4 organisms.   However, you lose the chance of finding Bartonella, which is quite common, makes us very ill with neurological symptoms, and is hard to diagnose in humans.




Find your handy DIY Tick Kit containing your fine-nosed tweezers! Correctly remove the tick. Put the tick in the baggy with a slightly moist small piece of paper towel.  If you must delay mailing it, refrigerate the baggy.  Send even the most mushed up or tiny ticks to the lab of your choice.

If you use your DIY Tick Kit, you have done your best to protect yourself after the bite, and before consulting your physician.

What Next?

You’ve been bitten by a tick, and the earlier treatment is begun the better.  Here at LymeCareNow, we will do our best to see you within 24 hours of your tick bite to provide prophylactic antibiotics, and assist with sending your tick to the appropriate lab.

Call for an appointment:  (212)  228-2332.


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