Are Ticks Dangerous?

Last Updated: 12.11.19

 

Whether you live in an urban area or a rural one, ticks tend to be present everywhere, so before going into details on potential risks, you might want to check out our recent article on how to keep them at bay.

When it comes to cities, ticks can live in parks and green areas, since they usually establish residence in trees, shrubs, grass, leaf piles, or other such types of environments. If you’ve spent a lot of time outdoors, especially as a kid, then you’ve most likely encountered these creatures at some point.

Ticks are attracted to both people and animals, and migrating between the two is not a problem. For this reason, if you have pets, you need to make sure they are properly protected to prevent them from carrying these parasites inside the house.

There are dozens of tick species that live in many different areas, and almost every state has at least one type that lives there. Since the warm season is known for enhancing almost every form of life, spring and summer months are the time when ticks multiply and when their population reaches the highest numbers.

Thus, protecting your pets starting from April until September is crucial for both their and your health. This brings us to this article’s main question.

 

Are ticks dangerous?

Most of the times, tick bites are harmless and they don’t cause any particular symptom. One thing it’s good to be aware of is that when ticks bite, they release a pain inhibiting substance as well that prevents them from being detected by the host. In other words, you won’t even know it bit you until the deed is done.

In some cases, a tick bite can trigger an allergic reaction, so if you know that your body is prone to such potential issues, you might want to protect your skin during the summer months with a repellent, especially if you intend to spend a couple of nice days in nature.

However, the two potential situations described above are the lighter alternatives. Ticks can also carry various diseases that get passed onto both humans and pets. If left untreated, some of these diseases may have very serious consequences or even be deadly.

 

A few words about ticks

Belonging to the arachnids group (the same as spiders and scorpions), ticks can range quite a lot in size, have eight legs, and are essentially blood-sucking parasites. Given that there are multiple tick species, their colors can vary as well, going from shades of reddish brown to brown, or black.

Their feeding process is a rather interesting one (although not for the host) because ticks attach to the skin and feed continuously until they are full. This process can last for 10 days, in some cases even up to 14. Another interesting fact is that as they take in more blood, they grow, and after several days their color can turn into a greenish-blue.  

Once they are done feeding, ticks detach themselves from the host. Since their saliva (which according to some experts and researchers might be one of the most interesting substances) reduces pain to avoid detection, the host might not even be aware that a tick is having a meal.

In terms of where they locate on the skin, ticks are usually happier with warm, soft, and moist areas of the body. That’s why once they hop onto a new host, they tend to migrate toward particular spots, such as the hair or the groin. Once they find the preferred location, they bite into the skin and begin feeding.

 

What are the symptoms of a tick bite?

As we’ve mentioned, tick bites can be completely harmless, which means that they won’t trigger any kind of particular symptoms. In case of an allergic reaction, the area around the bite might hurt or start swelling. Other signs can also appear, such as blisters, a burning sensation, or a rash. In severe cases, an individual may even experience some difficulty breathing.

If you do notice a rash, however, this can indicate a disease as well, so in the case of any such sign, you should check with a doctor as soon as possible. The bullseye rash is the easiest to recognize, as concentric circles of reddened skin start forming. This shape is associated with the tick-borne Lyme disease, so don’t ever ignore it.

While this type of rash is the main one associated with the Lyme disease, it only appears in about 33% of the cases. With this being said, if you do notice that a tick bit you, you need to remove it and then preserve it in a plastic bag and in the freezer, in case your doctor needs to run any tests and determine if a disease was transmitted or not.

For tick-borne diseases, the symptoms can include even full body rashes, neck stiffness, nausea, weakness, headaches, joint or muscle pains, chills, fever, and other similar ones. These can appear within several days after a tick bite, with some taking as long as a few weeks until you start noticing them.

In case you see any of these signs, you should seek medical attention right away, in order to evaluate the situation and see if a treatment is needed. The good news is that ticks don’t bite in groups, so most of the times we’re talking about a singular case. However, this depends on the number of ticks that live in a certain area as well.

 

 

 

How to treat a tick bite

If you notice a tick bite and the culprit is still there having a good time and feeding on your blood, the first thing you should do is remove it. This is done rather easily, and all you need is a set of tweezers.

You should grasp it as close as possible to the skin’s surface and then pull it straight up while applying steady pressure. You shouldn’t twist or bend the tick while you do this since parts of its mouth might remain lodged into the skin. However, if this happens, it’s not the end of the world, but you need to try to remove these as well.

Then you can wash the area with soap and water, and submerge the tick into alcohol to make sure that it died and cannot go for a stroll. Then you should place it in a sealed container and go see your doctor in case you notice any of the symptoms described above. The diseases that can be transmitted vary across different parts of the country.

There are also some measures you can take to prevent tick bites overall. When you go walking in the woods or in areas with a lot of vegetation that favors their presence, you should wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Also, avoid getting into shrubs too much and remain in the center of the trails.

You can also apply a tick repellent and then, when you get home, make sure that you check your skin, especially behind the ears, under the arms, around and behind the knees, and your hair. This way, you can see any potential tick right away and take the necessary actions. A quick reaction is always a good idea when it comes to these bugs.

 

 

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Eileen Benson

Thanks for explaining that ticks usually live in trees and shrubs. I just moved to a home with lots of trees and other greenery. I’m glad I read your article so I can look in to hiring a tick control service to keep them at bay!