Part of the arachnids group, ticks are related to other not-so-nice types of creatures such as spiders or scorpions. If you’ve been looking for an effective tick repellent, then you might live in an area that is prone to larger tick populations. These parasites usually live outdoors, hiding in green areas such as trees, underbrush, grass, or shrubs.
The bad news is that pets are extremely exposed to their presence since our curious friends tend to play in the grass all day long. If your dog or cat gets bitten by a tick, besides the multiple health issues this situation can pose, he or she might also bring the parasite into the house. This means that you get indirectly exposed as well.
Moreover, if you enjoy activities such as hiking, you might pick up a tick, since they have developed an effective system of waiting for their next host and then quickly climbing aboard, but we’ll get to this in a bit.
There are various species of ticks that live throughout the country, and each one can carry different health risks. That is why, depending on the area you live in, if you suspect you’ve been bitten by a tick and you start noticing various symptoms that might indicate a disease, you need to seek medical advice right away.
Furthermore, the tick population booms during the spring and summer months, so you should be particularly careful and regularly check both yourself and your pets for any bite marks, especially after long walks in nature.
How do ticks wait for their next host?
As we’ve already mentioned, ticks have developed an interesting behavior known as questing, where they wait for the next host all prepared to get onboard. What they do is that they go near the edges of grass or leaves, using their third and fourth pairs of legs as a base for stability.
At the same time, the first two sets of legs are extended in order to grab onto animals or persons that might be brushing against the vegetation. It’s always a good idea to remain in the middle of the trail when you go hiking or for a walk in nature while avoiding as much as possible any contact with the vegetation around you.
Moreover, you might also want to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, as well as an effective repellent that can keep these parasites at bay. On the other hand, pets are not aware of the risks, so it’s our responsibility to protect them using the special substances and products available on the market, especially during the warm season.
The good part is that ticks are not able to fly or jump, so they need to grab onto the next host. However, they have become very effective at doing this. Once the tick grabs onto an animal or individual, it might attach itself to the skin and start feeding right away, or it might explore the area for a while.
Ticks are known for preferring soft areas, such as the head or the ears. For this reason, it’s crucial to check your skin when you get back home after spending a while outdoors. While many times tick bites are harmless, there are situations in which they can cause allergic reactions. In the worst case scenario, diseases get transmitted.
What are the potential risks?
When it comes to the diseases that ticks can transmit, these are sometimes very serious ones that, if left untreated, can have a major impact on health. The list includes babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, as well as the Lyme disease.
If you do notice that a tick bit you, then you need to remove it immediately since the length of time it spends attached to the skin influences the risk of getting infected. Furthermore, there are various signs and symptoms that can appear in case a disease was transmitted.
While this doesn’t happen in all the cases, signs such as rashes can be a good indicator that you should go see a doctor as soon as possible. In fact, these are the most common type of symptoms and, in the case of the Lyme disease, they appear in only about 33% of the cases.
You can easily identify a rash that indicates a Lyme disease infection because it resembles a bullseye pattern, with reddened concentric circles that appear on the skin. However, any type of rash that appears after a tick bite should be checked with a doctor.
Other symptoms can include fever, headaches, as well as aching muscles and joints. Furthermore, you should also be aware that such signs can appear after a few hours, or even after a few weeks after being bitten.
Another aspect that makes ticks rather special is that their saliva contains pain inhibiting substances, in order to prevent them from being detected and removed by the host. What this means is that as a tick bites you, it neutralizes a small area around the bite and there’s a high chance that you won’t even know it’s there.
Plus, depending on the species, ticks can remain attached and feed on the host’s blood for long periods, in some cases even up to 14 days. They detach once they are full, but the longer they remain attached, the higher the risk is of getting a disease.
What to do if you find a tick on your skin?
In case you notice a tick bite and the parasite is still there, you need to remove it right away. This is not a very complicated process, and all you will need to use it a set of tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible in order to remove it completely, since otherwise the head might remain lodged there.
Next, you should pull straight up, applying steady pressure. As you do this, make sure that you don’t twist, bend, or turn the tick, as this might cause its head or parts of its mouth to break off. In case this happens, it’s not such a big issue, but you want to make sure that you remove them as well.
A tick’s head that remains within the skin increases the chances of getting a disease if the process hasn’t taken place yet. As you pull it out, you may hear a pop when it detaches. Once this step is over, you should clean the area with soap and water.
Then you should place the tick in a plastic bag (after having submerged it in some alcohol to make sure it’s dead) and preserve it in the freezer. While this might seem like a rather disgusting idea, it’s actually a very useful one, in case your doctor needs to run tests and see if it carries any diseases.
As a rule of thumb, it usually takes over 24 hours of feeding time for a tick that carries a disease to pass it on to a host. Therefore, the quicker it gets removed, the better are the chances for the host to remain healthy. The same goes for our pets, which is why you should regularly check their coats, and make sure that their deworming schedule is maintained, especially from the month of April through September.