Why and How Ticks Bite
Ticks’ primary source of food is blood obtained from mammals such as humans, dogs, raccoons, and mice. The pests typically live in wooded areas and grassy fields and latch onto hosts when they’re walking through these environments with exposed skin. Their mouths are made up of three specialized parts that aid in the feeding process, one hypostome and two chelicerae. Chelicerae are retractable rods tipped with hooked teeth used for anchoring feeding ticks in place. The hypostome is a long, sword-like appendage with a groove along the center that channels the host’s blood into the tick and tick saliva into the host.
Problems Caused by Tick Bites
The major problem associated with tick bites is disease transmission. Different species of ticks carry different diseases, but some ailments most commonly associated with the pests include Lyme disease, Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and tularemia.
These diseases bring about a host of multiple symptoms including, but not limited to, fevers, chills, muscle weakness, aches, fatigue, joint pain, rashes, loss of appetite, nausea, disorientation, stiffness, and heart problems.
Ticks Bite Symptoms
Physical Symptoms of Tick Bites
Victims usually don’t feel when ticks bite because the arachnids secrete novel painkillers during feeding. An inflamed patch of skin a little larger than a dime may indicate a tick bite site, and slight pain, itching, or burning are normal symptoms victims experience.
Some bites resemble a bullseye pattern, with a circular red ring encompassing a round blemish.
Tick bites usually last for three days before disappearing. Some individuals react more severely to tick bites than others, and bite marks may persist over a week. Victims that are particularly allergic to tick bites may develop rashes, blisters, or swelling or experience fatigue or difficulty breathing.
Tick bites can pose health hazards, due to the possibility of contracting tick-borne pathogens. When feeding, a tick expels excess water by transferring saliva into the host, and any pathogens the arachnid carries can enter into a host’s blood system. Typically, ticks must be attached to hosts for longer than 36 hours to transmit pathogens.
Symptoms of Tick-Borne Illnesses
Due to its severity and prevalence in local tick populations, Lyme disease is the largest tick-borne illness to threaten residents. The deer tick is a major carrier of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. An estimated 50% of the deer tick population harbors the bacteria. Typically contracted in summer months, Lyme disease brings symptoms of multiple rashes near bite sites, headaches, chills, fever, fatigue, stiff neck, swollen glands, and muscle pain. Symptoms may show several weeks after being bitten. Most Lyme disease cases can be successfully treated with antibiotics.
The Lone star tick, was also thought to pass Lyme disease to hosts. However, researches have disproven the notion, finding that the tick can infect hosts with an ailment known as STARI, southern tick-associated rash illness. Less severe than Lyme disease, STARI shares similar symptoms of fatigue, headache, fever, and muscle pain. Tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are other ailments that people may contract from tick bites.
Prevention & Control
Outdoorsy individuals can take several precautions to reduce the possibility of picking up ticks on hikes or during time spent in tall grasses. Wearing long sleeves, long pants, and tucking pants into socks during prolonged outdoor activity can stop ticks from latching onto skin.
Applying repellents before hikes also reduces the possibility of bringing home the pests. After time spent outdoors, individuals should inspect each other and pets for ticks before going back inside.
Finally, toss clothes into driers upon returning home to kill any ticks that have latched onto clothing.
Individuals that suspect they’ve been bitten should seek medical attention immediately. A swift diagnosis makes all the difference in ability to treat tick-borne illnesses. Furthermore, if property owners suspect the presence of tick infestations on their lawns, they should contact professional pest removal services to take care of the problem in a safe and timely manner.