A common pest encountered by people, particularly in the warmer months of the year, is the tick. This creature is classified as an arachnid, just as spiders are. Most varieties are harmless to humans. However, some species may transmit harmful diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Ticks vary in size, with some types as small as 1/8 of an inch long. Unlike other arachnids, these animals have a single pair of antennae and three pairs of legs. Humans and pets typically encounter the hard tick, a variety with a hard area behind the mouth. Soft ticks lack this feature and primarily feed on bats and birds. Neither type has wings or the ability to jump onto a host.
Symptoms of a Bite
Tick bites may go unnoticed until the pest has consumed enough blood to swell to a more noticeable size. People who are allergic to the pests may also experience pain, itching and other symptoms typical of a reaction to an insect bite. Anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, may take place in rare cases.
If the tick is a carrier of a more serious disease, other symptoms may develop in the weeks following a bite. Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted by the deer tick, causes a bulls-eye shaped rash to develop in up to 80% of cases. Other symptoms may vary according to the stage of the disease. Stage 3 Lyme disease may result in speech problems, muscle weakness and numbness months or years after the initial bite.
Once a tick begins to feed, its mouthparts will become embedded in the host’s skin. It is vital to remove every part of the tick, in order to avoid infection. Tweezers with small tips are best for removing attached ticks. Grasp the tick with the tweezers close to the host’s skin and remove it with a firm, straight, steady upward movement. If the mouthparts break off, as can happen if the tick is twisted, they may also be removed with tweezers. After removal, wash the bite area with soap and water and apply antiseptic. Bites do not generally call for a doctor’s visit unless the tick cannot be removed cleanly or additional symptoms occur. Further treatment for tick-borne illnesses varies according to the type and severity of the condition.
Ticks typically live in areas with dense plant growth, such as fields, woods and other grassy areas. Covering the body with clothing when walking in these areas can help reduce the chance of tick bites, as can applying insect repellant and carefully inspecting the body for ticks after possible exposure.
Professional pest control companies can also assist with tick prevention around the home. Proper application of tick control chemicals may eliminate or significantly reduce the pest population, including the types that are most likely to transmit diseases. For more details about professional tick control, please visit the Information page of this site.