Common bush ticks or scrub ticks often attach to people. Ticks bury themselves in the skin and scalp. Some Australian ticks release venom into the blood.

If a tick bites and attaches to someone, they may cause a severe allergic reaction. If they collapse or have trouble breathing, call Triple Zero (000).

Have I been bitten?

If a tick attaches, you may have swelling, redness and pain in the area.

Other symptoms may take a few days to develop, including:

  • blurred vision
  • a headache
  • weak legs and arms
  • unsteady walking.

In rare cases ticks can carry bacteria which may cause illness. They may also cause Mammalian Meat Allergy. Find out about the allergy on the Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website.

How to treat bites

If a tick attaches to you, kill it before you remove it to make sure it doesn’t inject more toxin.

Call us on 13 11 26 or see your doctor if you have severe symptoms or develop an infection.

Removing the tick

To safely remove a tick, you'll need to remove the whole tick. Don't apply kerosene or methylated spirits.

We don't recommend using tweezers. This can increase toxin release and the tick head may stay in the skin.

To remove the tick either:

  • freeze adult ticks with a spray that contains ether
  • apply a cream that contains permethrin to small ticks.

You can buy both of these from pharmacies.

Wait 10 minutes for the tick to die then carefully brush it off. Be careful not to squeeze the body of the tick.

After removing the tick

After you’ve brushed off the dead tick:

  • wash the area with soap and water and apply antiseptic, if available
  • apply an icepack to reduce local pain and swelling
  • use pain relief if needed
  • use an antihistamine to reduce swelling, redness and itch
  • search your body thoroughly for other ticks, especially body folds and creases
  • call us on 13 11 26, if any symptoms occur.

Prevent tick bites

Before you go into a tick infested area:

  • use insect repellent such as those containing picaridin or diethyltoluamide (DEET)
  • wear light-coloured clothing including long pants tucked into socks, a long-sleeved shirt and a wide brimmed hat.

To find out where you might find ticks, use the paralysis tick map on the Australian Museum website.

After you leave the area, check your whole body for ticks, and help children to check theirs. Look carefully at the:

  • back of the head and neck
  • groin
  • armpits
  • back of the knees.

Last updated: July 2023