Ew, tick - can a tick's size show how long it has been feeding?
November 6, 2017 9:27 AM   Subscribe

This morning I pulled a tick off of my 5-year-old daughter's scalp. The little bugger can be seen in these pictures, with a dime in the shot for scale. I know you're not my doctor, etc., and we're in touch with her pediatrician - her course of treatment isn't going to change based on this question. But is there any way to estimate how long the tick has been attached and feeding, based on how engorged it looks? We're in Western Pennsylvania, and I guess this is a deer tick.
posted by chinston to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
As someone who has had hundreds of ticks, that looks like a dog tick to me. Deer ticks are much, much smaller. That tick hasn't been attached long- surely less than a day. In about 5 days they are grossly swollen to 10x that size and they are ready to drop off.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 10:08 AM on November 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yep, the abdomen is thin like a lentil, when it’s full it’s nearly spherical.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:15 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't get too worried about that one. It looks like a dozen I've plucked off me in the last few years.
posted by Bee'sWing at 11:00 AM on November 6, 2017

That is almost unmistakably a deer tick, especially given its size. Dog ticks are much different and usually larger. I'm glad to hear the pediatrician is on it.
posted by Dashy at 11:09 AM on November 6, 2017

It looks like a female deer tick, but the picture is a bit difficult to make out. Save tick - send for testing.
They used to say 24-48 hours for disease to spread but recently read or listened to (I listened to a tick expert on NPR) new info that it can be must less time to infect.
I haven't wanted to just put my kid on antibiotics so I sent a tick in for testing to see if it even carried the disease. It didn't so I didn't even have to worry about it.
posted by ReluctantViking at 11:20 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Free tick testing (supported by NSF!)
posted by Dashy at 12:25 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Handy slide show (looks about 2 days to me).
posted by drlith at 12:46 PM on November 6, 2017

Per our pediatrician, who is an infectious disease specialist: tick testing is not recommended. False negatives are common and can lead to parents ignoring symptoms of Lyme and positive results are certainly no guarantee that any disease has been transmitted to the kid and increase anxiety in the parents.

They don’t do prophylactic treatment for Lyme, so it comes down to vigilantly monitoring for symptoms.

That tick doesn’t look very engorged to me, but I’m no expert, just a parent who lives in the woods in MA and therefore has dealt with a stupid amount of ticks. I wouldn’t be toooooo concerned.
posted by lydhre at 1:13 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm having a harder time getting a sense of whether or not it's a deer tick then I thought I would. I guess I'm used to looking at them in person rather then photos. I was leaning towards no, but thought I'd phone a friend. There response was "not a deer tick". I like lydhre's advice a lot, but thought I would add a data point.
posted by phil at 5:21 PM on November 6, 2017

I took the photo (I'm the subject's mother - or I guess the subject's host's mother) and it's actually the underside of the tick because it was determined to crawl on the plastic bag rather than the paper towel, if that makes it clearer what it is. I'm sorry they're such awful photos, I'm pretty squeamish about bugs generally, let alone ones whose mandibles were embedded in my baby's scalp *shudder*
posted by palliser at 6:30 PM on November 6, 2017

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