Despite best efforts to avoid tick areas (grassy areas, forested areas), wearing insect repellent/protective clothing, you may find that a tick has attached to you or your pet. If this is the case, caution is advised, as ticks may potentially carry disease organisms that may be injected into their host victim during the blood meal. There are over 850 species of ticks, and many are capable of being disease carriers.
First, learn how to safely remove a tick to remove all of the tick head and mouth parts. Do not light a match to get the tick out or coat it with mineral oil to suffocate it. These methods will not work, and could potentially cause more damage to the tick (this may be important later on if the tick needs to be tested) and/or inject more pathogenic organisms into the host. It is also valuable to be familiar with the most common ticks in your area and be able to identify them visually.
Once the tick has been safely removed, place the tick in an sealed air-tight bag or container. Do not immerse in rubbing alcohol or water. It the tick has been attached for 24 hours or more (larger than "regular" size and puffy.) Label the specimen with the date, geographic location and location on the body that the tick was removed from and file it in a safe place.
Tick-borne diseases may take days, weeks or months to manifest. In many cases, the original tick bite may be long forgotten by the time the more serious clinical symptoms appear. Tick-borne diseases can have a wide variety of symptoms, but the one most common symptom to all of the diseases is a fever. The fever may be mild or quite high, often accompanied by malaise or aches and pains, and may be mistaken for the flu.
If you are ill with generalized/non-descript signs after a tick bite, be sure to mention this to your health care provider. Ticks can be submitted for species identification as well as tested for various diseases. Check with your health care provider or local public health department for more information about reported tick diseases in your local area.
Additional Tick Information:
From the University of Nebraska
Tick Testing Information
From Analytical Services Inc.
Tick Removal a Testing Procedures: Proper Tick Removal
Torrington Area Health District
Learn About Lyme Disease
From the CDC (Centers for Disease Control)