Tick Bites – Symptoms and Treatments

Ticks need blood meals in completing their complex life cycle and humans are often the victim of tick bites.  There are about 800 species of ticks found throughout the world, but only two classes of ticks can transmit diseases to humans. Read along and find out more about the types of ticks and the common symptoms of tick bites.

Types of Ticks


1. Deer Ticks

A deer tick or blacklegged tick has a reddish brown body that is about 1/8 inch in length. Deer ticks are found in the Midwestern, Southeastern, Northeastern parts and sometimes in the Pacific Coast of the United States. They feed primarily on white-footed mice, white-tailed deer and other mammals. The common habitats of deer ticks are wooded areas, shrubs and grassy trails. They carry bacteria that cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.

Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) on a white background

2. Lone Star Ticks

The lone star tick is found from central Texas northwards to Iowa, then across to the Atlantic coast. The larvae and adults feed on several types of warm-blooded animals including people. The adult female lone star tick has a white spot in the middle portion of its back. Lone star ticks are most active from April to the end of July, and they can transmit ehrlichiosis, tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever to humans, and now there is even a link between the bite of these ticks and red meat allergies!


3. Wood Tick/Dog Tick

The wood tick or American dog tick is among the most common species of ticks. The adult dog tick feeds on large mammals and humans. Female wood ticks have a reddish brown body and large silver spots behind their head. They may grow about 1/2 inch in length after feeding, and they are most active in April to June. This type of tick transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis to humans.

Common Tick Bite Symptoms and Signs

Unfortunately, most tick bites are painless and not associated with symptoms. Furthermore, those who are bitten by ticks may not notice or feel any pain even after the tick has stopped the blood meal and falls of its prey’s skin. Eventually, the bitten area may develop itching, redness, localized severe pain, and burning in some people. Other individuals may be allergic or sensitive to tick bites, and they may suffer from rashes, breathing problems, swelling of the bite site, paralysis or numbness. Nevertheless, most people who are bitten by ticks do not experience symptoms, and some do not even recall getting bitten by a tick.

Individuals who experience adverse symptoms should consult a doctor immediate, so they can prevent serious complications. Among the physical symptoms that require prompt medical attention include shortness of breath, vomiting, paralysis, severe headache, palpitations, mental confusion, weakness, high fever and paralysis.

Tick Removal Techniques: How to Get Rid of A Tick from the Skin

If you notice a tick crawling on your skin, you should remove it promptly. The mouthparts are typically barbed, and these may remain embedded or cause infection at the bitten area if not removed properly. In addition, you should not burn a tick, or cover it with nail polish or petroleum jelly. It is important that you use the right tool such as tweezers in pulling the tick straight out and away from your skin. If you want to identify the type of tick that bit you, you may place it in a small vial with alcohol.

The following steps can help you remove ticks effectively and safely:

1. Use tweezers or a pair of curved forceps and wear gloves, so you can prevent the spread of bacteria from the tick to your fingers.

2. With a pair of tweezers, gently flip the tick over to its back. Then, grasp it firmly with tweezers, and carefully pull the tool until you have removed the tick. Make sure you do not twist or turn the tick, since its mouthparts are barbed. The twisting action while pulling off the tick may cause its mouthparts and head to break, which can increase the possibility of infection.

3. Once you have removed the tick from your skin, do not crush it as this may release pathogens. Instead, flush the tick down a toilet or rinse it off down a sink. You may also keep the tick in a tightly sealed jar or tape it to a small piece of white paper.

4. You may notice that the bite site has a small indentation or crate where the mouthparts and head were embedded. If you have observed that some portions of the head and mouthparts were left, you should consult your doctor.

5. Cleanse the bite site thoroughly with mild soap and water or disinfectant. Then, observe the bitten area for a few days and check for any development of a rash or skin reaction to the tick bite. You may also apply an antibiotic cream to the site, as this can prevent a localized infection. However, putting cream will not reduce the chances of developing any disease transmitted by the tick.

6. After using instruments or handling a tick, make it a point to wash your hands thoroughly to prevent the spread of pathogens. You should also disinfect and clean any tools that you used in removing the tick.

If you experience intense itching or a rash that is similar to a bull’s-eye, as well as rashes anywhere on your body, then you should seek medical treatment. Some diseases caused by ticks may be treated immediately with antibiotics. However, the type of medication or antibiotic varies, and individuals should be provided with the right treatment promptly in preventing further complications.


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