Ticks are pesky creatures that can pose a lot of health threats given that they can carry many diseases. Before going into details on how to identify a bite, it’s a good idea to think about how to repel ticks in the first place. During the summer they quickly multiply and spread, which means that there’s a higher chance to get bitten during the warm season.
The same goes for our pets that are even more prone to collect tick bites during warm weather, as they explore green areas around the house or on nearby fields. The potential risks are there from the moment a person or a pet gets bitten, but the sooner a tick bite is identified, the better it is in order to effectively treat any potential diseases.
Maybe you’ve heard this before, but it’s very important to treat tick bites seriously. This is not something that should be brushed off and forgotten about since the consequences can be significant. If left untreated, the diseases carried by a tick bite can end up affecting a person’s joints, vision, heart, muscles, and even the nervous system.
For this reason, the first step, and a crucial one for that matter is to correctly identify tick bites. Then you can take all the necessary measures to determine whether the person who was bitten was exposed to any kind of disease.
A few words about ticks
Since many times these parasites remain stuck within the victim’s skin and continue to feed for as long as they can, you might want to know what a tick itself looks like. For this, you should know that there are various stages of their life cycle.
Ticks belong to the arachnid class (just as spiders, scorpions, and mites do), and after the egg phase, they hatch as a larva, develop into a nymph and then turn into adults. Even though there are dozens of different tick species across the world if you can identify one, you kind of know what they all look like.
What does a tick bite look like?
The good part about tick bites is that they are painless. The bad part is that this is pretty much the only good part. Most of the times, those who get bitten are not even aware that the event took place since a tick’s saliva also contains an anesthetic that gets injected into the skin as well, so that the little parasite avoids a potential detection.
If this goes well, a tick can then feed continuously without any trouble. According to experts, many individuals who are now dealing with the tick-borne Lyme disease, cannot recall having had a bug bite in the first place. This tells a lot about the effectiveness of ticks when it comes to remaining undetected.
However, in some cases, you can notice a red spot and sometimes even the tick still being attached to the skin. Luckily, they don’t move around once they’ve bitten a person or a pet, so at least they are not crawling around biting more than once.
If undisturbed and depending on its life stage, a tick can remain attached as long as 10, or even 14 days on a host. However, other types of bug bites can look quite similar to these, so determining whether you’ve been bitten by a tick or by something else is not always that easy.
The first sign that it might be a tick bite is if there is no fluid-filled area. Bites from other insects (ants for example) can create pus-filled areas. The bite’s location can also be a good indicator because ticks usually look for soft-skin areas, so if you notice a bite on the legs, neck, groin, or scalp, there’s a chance it might be caused by a tick.
Rashes as indicators
If you notice a rash on the skin, particularly one that looks like a bullseye, with concentric circles of red skin, this is not only an indicator of a tick bite but one of a possible Lyme-disease infection. In most cases, bites from other insects don’t produce rashes with such distinctive patterns.
However, the bullseye rash appears in only about 33% of the Lyme-disease infections, so if you do notice such a pattern or any other rash for that matter, you should go as fast as possible to see a doctor and determine what needs to be done.
How to remove a tick
In case you see a bite and the tick is still there, enjoying a nice meal, you need to remove it as quickly as possible. There are many ways to do this, but you should be aware that only some of them are safe and effective. You might have heard some myths involving cigarettes, but these should never be tested.
Before going into more details, you should also know preserving the tick after its removal is a very useful thing to do since a doctor can use it to determine if it carries any diseases in case symptoms appear after the event. You shouldn’t try to smash the tick while it’s still attached to the skin since this can cause it to release even more toxins into the body.
Instead, try to keep the pesky little thing as intact as possible until it’s safely removed. To do this, grab it with some pointed tweezers, remaining as close to the burrowing spot as possible. Try to avoid squeezing it in the process, since this can cause more saliva and the additional pathogens it comes with to enter the body.
Then you need to pull it upward with even and steady pressure, without twisting or bending it as you do this. If you move it around as you pull up this can cause parts of its mouth to break off, which means these may remain stuck within the skin. Also, you might hear a pop as the tick detaches from the skin.
This process tends to become a lot trickier if its body breaks while you remove it. In case this happens, you can try to get the remaining parts out of the skin as well. In case you feel this might be more serious, you can leave them there and go to a healthcare provider as soon as possible for specialized assistance.
Next, you can place the culprit in a plastic bag, close it tightly, and keep it in the freezer. Then you should clean the area with some alcohol and thoroughly wash your hands. No matter what you do, don’t ever use matches or cigarette buts while a tick is still attached to someone’s skin.
Symptoms of tick-borne diseases
If you notice a tick bite on your body, you should ask a doctor what you need to do in order to determine if any infestation took place. Symptoms may vary and they can start to appear within a few days after being bitten.
These can include mild itching and a reddened spot on the skin, the specific bulls-eye rash in the case of the Lyme disease, as well as other types of rashes, and sometimes even fever.
There are multiple diseases that can be carried by ticks, including babesiosis, anaplasmosis, or tularemia. If left untreated, these can affect the body in much more serious ways, so if you suspect anything, you shouldn’t waste any time and go see a specialist.