By Diane Forrest, RN
Every year around the holidays my mom always cooks a big spread of food. After we eat she will exclaim, "I’m full as a tick!!" Well after seeing a picture of what a full tick looks like, I know what she means.
Some people think ticks are insects, but they are actually arachnoids, like spiders and scorpions. They will attach themselves to a host, and begin feeding. It may take an hour to finish a meal, so during this time they will excrete an enzyme to prevent blood from clotting. Once they have finished eating, they will simply fall off, but what is left behind is a bite that could become infected, and produce serious problems.
A tick's bite can result in many different diseases, such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease, Q Fever, African tick bite fever, tularemia, tick-borne relapsing fever, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Tick paralysis and tick-borne meningoencephalitis, as well as bovine anaplasmosis.
Some of the symptoms experienced after a tick bite include:
- Itching, burning, redness, and rarely, localized intense pain (some soft tick bites) in some individuals. A few individuals may be sensitive or allergic to tick bites (tick saliva secretions) and develop rash, shortness of breath, swelling, numbness, or paralysis. However, the majority of individuals with tick bites develop no symptoms, and many do not remember getting bitten.
- Some immediate symptoms that infrequently or rarely develop during or immediately after a tick bite may be fever, shortness of breath, weakness, vomiting, swelling, weakness or paralysis, headache, confusion, or palpitations. Individuals with these symptoms should be seen immediately by a doctor.
- If you see a tick on your body, the first thing you need to do is remove it with some tweezers. Make sure to pull upward in a single motion, and check to make sure there are no parts remaining attached to you. I have also heard that painting them with clear fingernail polish will cause them to release themselves from your skin, however this is not recommended as it may cause the tick to release more pathogens into your body.
To prevent getting bitten by ticks:
- Avoid grassy areas and shrubs where ticks populations may be high and where they reside, waiting to grab a ride on a potential host.
- Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can be easily seen, and brush them off.
- Tuck pants into boots or socks to avoid ticks crawling up loose pant legs.
- Apply insect repellant and use the brands designed to repel ticks. Follow label instructions. Avoid use of DEET-containing repellents on children. Carefully follow instructions and apply some repellents directly to skin and others to clothing. DEET-containing repellents with concentrations of 15% or less may be suitable for children. These should be carefully applied strictly following label directions. Repellents containing permethrins may be applied to clothing but not to skin. In areas that have a high tick population, DEET-containing repellents may need to be reapplied more frequently than for repelling mosquitoes. Follow the package label instructions carefully.
Promptly check yourself, others, and pets if exposed to areas where ticks are likely to be located.
Most tick bites do not produce pathogens, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, take measures to prevent the bite from occurring, and remove the tick if it attaches itself to you. Keep the area clean and monitor for any symptoms that were mentioned above, and have a safe summer.