Ticks: General Facts, Bites and Removal

Close up of tick a male finger

Ticks are tiny arachnids that feed on the blood of other animals along with mites. Single tick bites once and usually falls off when it gets filled. These pesky ticks can be very annoying as they have a tendency to spread diseases. These animals may include birds, mammals as well as amphibians and reptiles. Ticks are found all across the globe, and they prefer warm and humid climates. They just need to access to one of you small blood vessels, that is all that they need. Ticks are tiny blood-sucking parasites that are found in humid areas. There are some methods to kill ticks, however; there is some associated danger for the host as well. Many of the people think that handle a tick and removing it is not that big of an issue. However, if it is not handled properly, then it can be fatal for the host as these tiny creatures carry blood from other animals and humans. Therefore, tick bites need to be taken very seriously. They must be grabbed by their head and must be split over and genteelly start pulling it. Ticks must be avoided under every condition because they are a vector for many diseases. To avoid ticks, you must wear full clothes and don’t expose your skin to tick-infested areas. Make sure that you are wearing full sleeves shorts and better tuck your pants in your socks. The bite of these tiny creatures should not be ignored if it is found it in time. These critters can silently jump on a ride and start sucking in. They search for a weak spot where they can dig right in.

Appearance & SizeDisease-carrier ticks

Most of the ticks belong to either of the two families; the hard ticks or Ixodidae which are tight to crush and the soft ticks. The adult ticks have pear-shaped bodies which become red when ticks feed on blood. These small dark specks have eight legs along with an active shield on their dorsal part. The hard ticks have the beak like outlook with the mouthparts at the front while soft ticks have their mouthparts under their bodies. Both hard and soft ticks identify their host by temperature changes or by odor. Like the mites, ticks have lost the separate segmentation of the abdomen which was present in the ancestors. The mouthpart is designed to pierce through skin and suck blood. The larvae are born with three pairs of legs, and when they have their first blood meal, then they go on to the next nymph stage.  During the nymph and adult larvae stage, ticks have eight legs. Each of the legs has seven segments while the heads do not have any eye positioning. Their legs are a massive sensory structure based on the nerves. They have the ability to sense the changes in the temperatures as well the odor from the host. When it is not moving, the legs are kept together in a compact manner. Males and females not only different in their appearance but they also differ in life cycle too. On the other hand, the soft tick is also pear shaped but has rounded anterior, and the mouthparts cannot be seen from above

Diet & Feeding

These insects fulfill all their nutritional needs from blood meal, and they need to move from one stage to another in their lifecycle. Ticks have the ability to survive without food supply for long times. However, they will eventually die if they are not able to find a suitable host. Some ticks attach themselves quickly to their hosts while others take some time and wander around to find a week spot i.e. a thin area of the skin. When they are waiting for a passing host, they are positioning themselves in wait which is called ‘questing.’ During these posts, the ticks cling with the third or fourth. The first pair of legs is extended forward so that a host can be found. The height of questing depends on the size of the tick. The smaller species and the nymphs of larger species do they are questing colder to the ground. The adult ticks climb higher when they might find more primary hosts. Some ticks have predatory nature and wait for the hosts while they are resting. After finding the ideal place to feed, these ticks grasp the skin and cuts it and starts sucking the blood through the epidermis. When they attach themselves to a host, they go for a house arrest and stay with the host for a few days after which they just fall off. This can vary from 1 week to several days as they get filled with the blood.

Range & HabitatTick on tweezers in lab

Tick species can be found in some habitats around the world. Nevertheless, they have a tendency to flourish in small brush areas where there are warm temperatures and humid climates. Ticks need environmental moisture to undergo metamorphosis. Ticks are more commonly found in great outdoors where there are mammals, birds, amphibians and some reptiles. These insects are also found in cattle and are considerably harmful to the livestock because they can damage the wool hides and can also cause anemia as well as transmit different species of pathogens. The tropical but ticks have an adverse impact on grazing animals residing in the Caribbean and African regions. The spinose ear ticks have the tendency to live inside the ears of the animals and cattle. Ticks prefer moving on tall grass and look for their ride meal.

Lifecycle

All ticks have four phases of their lifecycle which include egg, larvae, nymph and adult. The hard ticks have three different hosts, and this allows them to complete they life cycle in about a year or so. The soft ticks have seven instars, and each of them requires blood to grow. As ticks have the ability to ingest blood, they are vectors of over ten diseases that have an impact on small wild animals as well as humans.

Tick Representative Species

Some of these disease-carrying tick species are enlisted as follows,

1. American Dog Tick

American dog tick is also known as Rocky Mountain wood tick is a notorious pest, for carrying the various human diseases. These diseases include Rocky Mountain spotted fever along with tularemia. It is one of the most common hard ticks. The diseases are spread when it sucks the blood from a host which is a big problem.

【Read more about Dog】

2. Black-legged Tick

The black-legged ticks are also known as deer ticks. It is also one of the hard-bodies ticks, and it also is a vector of many dangerous diseases of animals as well as humans. These conditions include Powassan virus disease, babesiosis, Lyme disease. It is also a known parasite for white-tailed deer. Moreover, it is also a parasite for different migratory birds, mice, and lizards.

3. Lone Star Tick

A lone star tick stays in contact with the host probably for a week or up to it is full of blood. They have a whitish silver spot in the center of their back from which they get their name. Lone star tick is also sometimes referred to as turkey tick as the immature ticks feed on wild turkey blood. They are also a vector for many different diseases.

4. Groundhog Tick

These ticks are found throughout the eastern part of North America. They can cause Powassan disease and are also known as woodchuck ticks. They feed on the blood of many warm-blooded animals like foxes, groundhogs, weasels, raccoon, skunks and squirrels.

【Read more about Groundhog】

15 More Fascinating Facts about Ticks

Here is a list of little-known facts about the ticks:

  1. Ticks are arachnids, not insects, which mean that they are more related to spiders as compared to flies.
  2. Within the US only a few types of ticks are responsible for spreading diseases.
  3. When a tick finds a host, it usually stays with the host for a few days’ time.
  4. The disease transmission is not instant in case of ticks; it usually takes time.
  5. Ticks have the tendency to spread multiple diseases at once.
  6. Ticks can stay alive long without air and water, and due to this, most of the home remedies do not work.
  7. There is no Lyme disease vaccine for humans, however; there is one available for dogs.
  8. These biting buggers tend to bite more during the summer because the skin is softer during summers.
  9. There are 850 species of ticks that are found all over the world.
  10. Ticks usually infest dogs more than cats.
  11. Never try to remove a tick with your bare handed and always use tweezers and pull them gently.
  12. Ticks do not have any wings or antennae.
  13. In some cases, Tick bites are not readily detectable as some of them might not cause any pain.
  14. Most of the tick bites do not require any medication.
  15. Ticks are equipped with barbs which they use to grab and hold onto the skin.

6 FAQ about Tick Bites

1. What are the Risk Factors for Tick Bites?

There are different risk factors for tick bites which include hiking through the woods, walking barefoot on grass in your neighborhood park in particular through the months when humidity is high. Not using natural tick repellant or any clothing that keeps the arms, legs, hands and feet well-protected. People who have pests and don’t care about their hygiene and don’t use any insect repellent are at high risks. They need to take care that these buggers might be carrying a potentially fatal disease. Therefore, tick control is necessary to avoid any inconveniences. Numerous cases of diseases have been reported, and Lyme disease rates have also been on the rise with the passage of time.

2. What are Tick Bite Symptoms and Signs?

The bites from ticks are painless, and many people may not even find it on their body especially if it falls off. Some of the ticks are so tiny that they cannot be noticed with a bear eye unless you watch very carefully. A neurotoxin secretion is released during the time of bite so that no one notices the bite. On rare occasion, the neurotoxin might cause stiffness in the neck, and it rarely causes paralysis or various other neurological problems. Other symptoms may only show when the tick completely falls off. You might see redness or rash near the bite area as well as itching and burning. Moreover, loss of appetite, swollen lymph node, and swollen joints are reportedly common symptoms, especially if there is a case of Lyme disease.

3. What Diseases Do Ticks Transmit to Humans?

There are different types of diseases that ticks transmit to humans. These include Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, Southern tick-associated rash and illness, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, relapsing fever, tularemia, Colorado tick fever, Powassan disease, anaplasmosis, African cattle disease, Q fever and Heartland viral disease.

4. How Do Health-care Professionals Diagnose a Tick Bite?

Health-care professionals do not have any tests to identify either tick or its bite after it dislodges itself from the host. The doctor looks for any ticks that are still attached to the body. If not then any rashes will be searched out for, and then tests will be conducted to examine any signs of diseases. In most of the cases, blood tests are recommended by the doctors.

5. What is the Treatment for a Tick Bite?

The nature of the medical treatment depends upon the species of pathogen that are transferred into the blood. IT will also depend upon the length of attachment, the type of the tick and the kind of the disease that are vectored by ticks. The treatment will also depend upon the type of symptoms that the person will show. You can apply any local antibiotic or clean the bite area, and for some diseases, oral antibiotics will also be recommended. If there are some severe symptoms, then the person can also be admitted to a hospital.

6. How to Prevent Tick Bites?

Yes, it is possible to prevent future bites from ticks,

  • Stay away from the areas where these ticks thrive especially during the months of April to September within the US.
  • Stay away from the grassy regions and shrubs where ticks might be present looking for a potential meal.
  • Make sure that you wear light color clothing so that ticks can be easily located on the body.
  • You can also tuck your pants into your socks or boots for extra protection and use long sleeves shirts.
  • Frequently apply insect repellants that are specifically designed to repel the ticks.
  • Make sure that you check yourself as well as others if you have been exposed to tick infestations.
  • The people who experience fever and they have been to tick infested area then they should donate their blood.
  • At present, there are no vaccines available to tackle tick bites. However, as per the research, it has been found that white blood cells do have an important role to play in resisting the bites.

【Read more about Bites】

What is the Best Method of Tick Removal?

Many of the people think that they know how to get rid of a tick while it is attached to the body. Unfortunately, most of them do not know anything. In fact, if proper removal is not made then the chances of infection will significantly increase. There is no immediate relieve from it. If some techniques are used to remove ticks, and they stimulate the ticks to spit out the blood or saliva with it, and the chances of infection will be increased significantly. In this regard, there are two cautions. One of the most common methods to remove a tick is to use the head of a hot match and touch the back parts of the tick with it. Another method is to cover the tick with paint or some inflammable chemical; however, this can be dangerous for the host as well. These methods also make the tick to release some pathogens into the bloodstream. The second caution in this regard is that all of the head along with the mouthpart should be removed. Because ticks hold onto their hosts very firmly, therefore, removing them forcefully might leave the mouthpart embedded in the skin of the host. This can also cause infection and the likelihood of transmitting the disease.Doctor removing a tick with tweezers from skin of patient

How to Remove Ticks from a Person’s Skin?

You can sue a small pair of curved or fine-tipped tweezers of forceps and make sure that you wear gloves so that you do not spread any pathogens the tick to yourself. With the tweezers, gently flip the tick on its back and grab it firmly as close to the skin of host as possible. Now apply gently pulling until the tick comes off. Turning or twisting the bug will not help the cause at all. One the contrary, turning and twisting might break off the head, and this will also cause infection. Make sure that you do not crush the tick because you are transmitting disease. You can flush it down the toilet or rinse it off the sink. You can also show this tick to your doctor if you become sick. There will be a small crater in the bite area. If the head portion or mouth parts remain embedded in the skin, then they must be removed by the doctor. The bite area must be thoroughly cleaned with soap or detergent to eliminate any infection. Application of any antibiotic is also very helpful. Make sure that you wash your hand before handling any tick you will be infecting the area as well.

How to Remove Ticks from Your Dog or Cat?Remove tick of the dog's skin

A similar method can be used to remove ticks from your dog or cat. Just use the tweezers and grab the tick by its head and make sure that none of the mouthpart or head portion remains within the skin or it will cause infection. The rest of the procedure is very much similar to the above description. Just make sure that none of the mouthparts or head regions remains embedded within the skin. Otherwise, the infection will begin. Make sure that your cats or dogs are properly cleaned and is well taken care off. You need to check their habits as well. You do not want your dog running around in the mud and then jump on the neat sofa. Check their ears and eyes as well and look for the traces of ticks. If there are some ticks, then make sure to rinse them off, and if there is slight less quantity, then you can choose the above mentions methods as well. These techniques are not only the easier ones but also put you in control at all times.

Conclusion

It can be safely concluded that ticks are one of the parasites that live on the blood of other mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. They have the ability to live in a diverse natural world, however; they prefer humid places so that metamorphosis can be initiated within their eggs. There are different species of ticks that have their characteristics. Because ticks live on the blood of other animals, therefore, they have a tendency to spread some tick-borne illnesses for both animals and humans.  Nevertheless, there is no vaccine available for tick bite, but there are some methods and techniques that can be used to prevent tick bites. These methods have been provided in the above. A tick must be removed very carefully. If they are not removed carefully, and some of the mouthpart remains in the skin, then this can also cause infection and is an open invitation to multiple diseases. It is essential to seek assistance from a medical professional so that all matters are handled in a professional manner. These small blood-sucking parasites usually fix their mouthpart and continue sucking till they are finished.

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