Lyme Disease FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

The chance of getting Lyme disease from a tick bite depends on the type of tick, the region where you are bitten, and how long the tick is attached to your body. While many ticks may bite you, blacklegged and western blacklegged ticks are the only ticks that carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, and not all blacklegged ticks are carriers. 

Additionally, infected ticks must attach to your body for at least 24-36 hours to transmit Lyme disease. This makes following proper tick bite prevention and tick removal tips critical in areas where blacklegged and western blacklegged ticks are most common.

If you or your child become sick after being bitten by a tick, contact your health care provider right away. Common Lyme disease symptoms include:

  • rash
  • fever
  • body or muscle aches
  • facial paralysis
  • neck pain
  • joint pain and swelling

Ticks can also transmit other diseases, so it’s important to visit your health care provider if you or your child become sick in the weeks after any tick bite.

Learn more about symptoms of Lyme by visiting our Lyme disease Symptoms page.

Health care providers diagnose Lyme disease based on the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease, the likelihood that the patient has been exposed to infected blacklegged ticks, the possibility that other illnesses may cause similar symptoms, and the results of laboratory tests, when appropriate. CDC currently recommends a two-step testing process for Lyme disease.

If you or your child are diagnosed with Lyme disease, be sure to take or give antibiotics exactly as your health care provider instructed.

How health care providers treat Lyme disease depends upon how recently you or your child were infected. If you have early Lyme disease, your health care provider will prescribe oral antibiotics for 10-14 days. If you are diagnosed with Lyme disease later, you will need to take a longer course of antibiotics. 

If you or your child are diagnosed with Lyme disease, be sure to take or give antibiotics exactly as your health care provider instructed.

Although a 2-4 week course of antibiotics cures most cases of Lyme disease, patients sometimes have symptoms of pain, fatigue, or difficulty thinking that last for more than six months after they finish treatment.

Additional research is needed to determine why some patients experience these symptoms. Studies funded by the National Institutes of Health have found that long-term outcomes are no better for patients who received additional prolonged antibiotic treatment than for patients who received placebo treatments.

If you have been treated for Lyme disease and still feel unwell, see your health care provider to discuss additional options for managing your symptoms.

Insect repellents that are recommended for people should not be used on animals. Dogs are highly vulnerable to tick bites and tickborne diseases. There is an available vaccine against Lyme disease for dogs. Talk with your veterinarian about the best tick prevention products for your dog. 

Note that cats are very sensitive to chemical products. Do not apply tick prevention products on your cat without consulting a veterinarian. 

No. CDC does not recommend using a combination sunscreen/repellent. Instead, apply sunscreen and then apply your insect repellent.

Ticks do not fly or jump. Instead, they wait on the tips of long grasses and shrubs for hosts to walk by. Learn more by visiting our tick bite prevention page

Blacklegged ticks that spread the bacteria that causes Lyme disease are most active in spring, summer, and fall in the Northeastern, mid-Atlantic and North Central states. Any time temperatures are above freezing, however, adult ticks may be active and in search of hosts.

There are many options that are safe and effective for children aged 2 months and older. When choosing an insect repellent to protect your family against tick bites, stick with primary active ingredients registered by the Environmental Protection Agency. Get more info in the Choosing an Insect Repellent section on our Tick Bite Prevention page.

Ticks can transmit diseases other than Lyme
disease. Click here for an overview of tickborne diseases in the US, including maps where these diseases are reported.