Ticks are common pests that are capable of transmitting serious diseases to both humans and pets. Ticks can be found hiding in grass, trees, shrubs, and leaf piles. While they cannot fly or jump, they will climb onto plants and shrubs that are low to the ground and grab a host as they walk past. Tick-borne diseases can cause significant harm to humans so it is important to recognize a tick if you see one and familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of tick bites so you can receive prompt treatment for them.
What Do Ticks Look Like?
Ticks are small, blood-sucking arachnids (related to spiders and scorpions) and thus have 8 legs. They can be as small as the head of a pin or as large as a pencil eraser. At their largest (after a large blood meal) they can be the size of a marble. As they feed they get larger and larger. Their color ranges anywhere from brown to reddish brown to black. If they become engorged after feeding, they can even turn a greenish-blue color. Ticks have 4 stages to their life cycle: egg, larva, nymph, and adult.
How Do Ticks Bite?
Most tick bites are painless and the victim doesn’t usually realize they’ve been bitten right away. Ticks inject an anesthetic into the skin at the site of the bite helping to numb the sensation. Ticks bury their head into the skin at the site of the bite in order to feed on blood. Sometimes the tick is still attached when you realize you have a bite; other times they have already fallen off. Ticks will most often bite in warm, moist areas of the body such as the armpits, groin, scalp, back of the neck, and backs of the knees, although they can bite anywhere there is open skin available. Ticks can feed for up to 10 days if they go unnoticed.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Tick Bite?
The most common symptom of a tick bite is redness around the bite site due to inflammation. There can also be pain at the site, swelling, and a burning sensation. Another common symptom is a rash. A bulls-eye shaped rash is common with tick bites and represents the potential for Lyme disease. A rash can also indicate tick-borne relapsing fever, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, ehrlichiosis, and bartonella. Other symptoms that may occur include blisters (although these are usually not fluid filled like those of ants and other insects), difficulty breathing, neck stiffness, headache, nausea, weakness, muscle and joint pain, fever, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. Ticks typically only have one bite site while other insects like ants and bed bugs will usually have multiple bites on a single person.
How To Remove A Tick
If you find a tick still attached after you are bitten, here are steps you can take to safely remove it.
- Grab the tick with pointed tweezers close to the skin.
- Try not to squeeze the tick too hard.
- Pull upwards with steady, even pressure; don’t jerk or twist it.
- If the tick’s body breaks apart while you are trying to remove it, try to tweeze out the remains as best as you can.
- You may hear a pop when the tick is removed.
- Place the tick in a Ziploc bag and seal it tightly. Store it in the freezer. Take it with you to your medical provider as it can be used to help determine what diseases it may have transmitted to you.
- Clean the skin with alcohol and wash your hands.
- Don’t burn the tick off.
Ticks can cause potentially serious diseases in humans. If you suspect you have a tick bite, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Help prevent ticks by avoiding tall grass and wooded areas during tick season, wearing long sleeved clothes that are tucked into your shoes, using insect repellent, and keeping pets up to date on flea and tick preventatives. If you have a problem with ticks or any other pest, contact a professional pest control company who can help set you up with a prevention and treatment plan.