18 June 2022

The case of the little brown dot

I was recently asked by a friend to check their back for a possible tick.  I saw a tiny round dot without legs and said I think this is a scab.  It came off easily.  But they said there was no reason for them to have a scab back there, so I put the dot under a digital microscope, which showed that the reason there were no apparent legs was that the legs were curled up under the body:

And the reason it was round was that... there was no head.

So the microscope goes back on my friend's back and sure enough - there was the head - still embedded in the skin.  There followed a prolonged debridement with available tools - a needle and alcohol wipes - with eventually satisfactory results.

The diameter was only about 3-4 mm, so this was probably a nymph.  The attachment had been only for a matter of hours, so the risk of Lyme was negligible.  Still it was a bit unsettling...


  1. Having been treated for Lyme *thrice*, I would recommend a prophylactic course of doxycyclene (or whatever abx they're using now) just to be safe. The last time I got a bullseye rash the tick had been on me for less than 8 hours total, including unattached time.

  2. Testing people to see who had the antibodies indicating exposure to Lyme, Europe showed 20%, Caribbean 2%, and the US 9%.

  3. Currently taking doxycycline for Lyme disease, so can confirm @andiscandis.

    The tick was on me for less than an hour, probably less than a half-hour, and had not attached in any way. Thought I was in the clear until the telltale red rash started nearly a week later.

    They're apparently particularly bad this year in the States.


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