A tick bite is usually relatively harmless, but there are instances where a simple bite can cause an allergic reaction or other serious illness.
Tick bites are not something to brush off, forget, and deal with later. Some ticks can carry microbes that can cause diseases and other complications. Following a bite, the skin may change colour, and there may be swelling or soreness on the bitten area.
The most important factors to consider when it comes to tick bites is prevention, and treatment to avoid health complications.
How To Identify Tick Bites
In Australia, the most common bites are caused by the Ixodes holocyclus or commonly known as the paralysis tick. These parasites (sometimes referred to as “mean little suckers”) feed on warm-blooded hosts by biting them and feeding off their blood.
Tick bites can affect both humans and animals, and can involve with viruses and bacteria that can cause various diseases. Some of these conditions can pose serious health risks – such as Lyme disease, tularemia, anaplasmosis, and rocky mountain spotted fever.
Ticks are related to mites and spiders, meaning they’re a type of arachnid. They change in size and form between each lifecycle – from an egg hatched as a larva, growing into a nymph, and the last stage as an adult tick.
There are many types of tick species, but the paralysis tick is one of the most commonly encountered.
Signs And Symptoms
Many of the conditions caused by tick bites present similar symptoms, such as:
- Fever (high body temperature)
- Muscle aches and pains
- Itchiness or irritation (usually appear later on)
- Skin rash
Some rashes caused by ticks may indicate an infection. Small reddish or purplish spots are often associated with rocky mountain spotted fever, while expanding red dots on the skin (that looks like a bullseye) are possibly the initial signs of Lyme disease.
What Does A Tick Bite Look Or Feel Like?
The ticks do not burrow completely under the skin when biting. They dig parts of their heads into the skin of a person or animal as they feed – a process that can last up to 10 days.
A person who gets bitten usually won’t feel anything during the process. However, you may notice a little redness and swelling in the bite area.
If you or other is suspected of being bitten by a tick, seek help immediately.
First Aid Treatment For Tick Bites
- Start by removing the tick promptly and carefully.
- Use fine-tipped forceps or tweezers to grab the tick as close to the head as possible (right against your skin). Do not simply grab the body, as this can be soft and swelled with blood – you don’t want the tick to break apart and leave it’s mouthparts in the skin. Once you have grasped it, gently but firmly pull out the tick, moving it straight backwards from the direction of entry.
- Avoid squeezing or twisting the tick while pulling it, and do not attempt to handle it with bare hands. It is also not recommended to use petroleum jelly, nail polish, or a hot match to remove a tick – you need to forcibly remove it, not encourage it to let go.
- Once it is successfully removed, secure it in a container and take a picture. Taking photos of the tick can help you and your healthcare provider to identify the species and determine what risks it might present.
- Wash your hands and the bitten area thoroughly using soap and warm water. Alternatively, you can use rubbing alcohol or an iodine scrub to clean the bite.
When To Seek Medical Care
Seek immediate medical attention if there are any signs of developing symptoms, including:
- Signs of paralysis (numbness, tingling, weakness, and incoordination)
- Severe migraine or headache
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat
- Trouble breathing
- Or any other serious symptoms
In most cases, there is no need to see a doctor for a tick bite. However, if you attempt to remove a tick and part of it remains in the skin, it’s best to seek medical care.
Other developing symptoms (rash, fever, signs of paralysis, etc.) must be evaluated for treatment or take a trip to the emergency room.
Most tick bites are harmless and do not require medical assistance. But some ticks (like paralysis ticks) can carry harmful germs and cause diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.
Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases remain a public health hazard in Australia. Many people, including children and the elderly, are at significant risk of its impact.
Knowing the proper treatment and prevention can decrease the future potential of tick bites diseases.
Learn first aid to treat tick bites and other diseases.