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Tick Bite: Pictures, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

I am a consulting doctor and a health writer who has been writing online for 8 years.

How can you recognize and treat a tick bite?

How can you recognize and treat a tick bite?

Ticks are very tiny creatures, about the size of a pinhead. There are many different species of ticks that can cause tick bites in humans. Around 800 different types of ticks have been known to inhabit the earth for nearly 90 million years. However, the tick bites of only two types of ticks are known to cause illnesses in humans. They include hard ticks with a hard plate covering on their backs, and soft ticks without any hard plate.

The life cycle of a tick is complex and involves eggs, larva, nymphs, and adult female and male ticks. Other than the eggs, all tick forms require blood for survival. A majority of male ticks die post-mating. Female ticks are mainly responsible for causing most cases of tick bites in humans, and for the transmission of different illnesses.

Ticks do not have wings and hence cannot fly. They are also incapable of jumping. Ticks can only crawl from one place to another, and while doing so can attach to human or animal skin. Ticks do not have a liking for a specific type of blood and can feed on both animals and humans. Most ticks require regular blood meals for existence. Some tick species can however survive for almost a full year without feeding on blood.

Hard ticks will crawl and attach to a host. They can then continue to suck blood for some hours or even a few days. After the tick is fully satiated and swollen up, it ceases the feeding session and drops off the prey’s body. A tick bite mark along with the passage of pathogens are all that remain. As opposed to this, soft ticks only feed for about an hour. The germs get transferred to the victim within a minute of a soft tick bite.

Nearly all species of ticks tend to bite and leave a tick bite mark. However, only hard and soft ticks are known to transmit pathogens into the body and blood of their hosts, through saliva and other emissions.


Symptoms of a Tick Bite

Some of the signs and symptoms accompanying a tick bite are listed below:

  • Normally, a tick bite does not cause any discomfort or pain. It holds true even after the tick has had its fill of blood and has fallen off the affected person’s body.
  • After some time, a distinctive rash may form at the site of the tick bite. Such a rash may be intensely itchy and result in burning sensations and extensive redness of the affected skin. Some people may also experience local pain.
  • Individuals with hypersensitive skin, or those will allergies to tick saliva and other fluids may develop severe cases of a tick bite rash. They may also experience additional adverse abnormalities such as inflammation and swelling, breathlessness, numbness, and even coma.
  • In rare cases, tick bites can result in severe signs and symptoms such as breathing and respiratory anomalies, fever, weakness, confusion, vomiting, headache, disorientation, rapid heartbeats, and widespread inflammation.

Tick Bites and Diseases

Most varieties of soft and hard ticks harbor different kinds of germs. Therefore, people with tick bites are at greater risk of developing the below-mentioned illnesses:

  • One star ticks can transmit Ehrlichia ewingii and Ehrlichia chaffeensis bacteria via their bites, thereby causing Ehrlichiosis.
  • Some species of hard ticks can transmit the Coltivirus RNA virus thereby causing Colorado tick fever.
  • Tick bites of the brown dog tick or the Rocky Mountain wood tick can transmit the Rickettsia bacterium.
  • A deer tick bite can transmit the Borrelia bacteria, thereby causing Lyme disease.
  • An American dog tick bite can cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
  • Some kinds of hard ticks can transfer the protozoan Babesia, thereby causing Babesiosis.
  • Q fever is caused due to transfer of the Coxiella burnetii bacteria via the bites of certain types of hard ticks.
The target-style tick bite.

The target-style tick bite.

Causes of a Tick Bite

  • Tick habitats are usually made up of densely forested regions with lots of shrubs and tall grasses. A visit to such areas can increase the risk of a tick bite.
  • Tick bites typically occur on skin areas that are uncovered, unprotected, and bare, especially while enjoying outdoor excursions in thickly wooded areas.

Treatment of a Tick Bite

Tick bites can be harmless and only cause some discomfort and pain. They can also result in the transmission of deadly pathogens. Hence, all tick bites need to be examined and treated by a doctor.

A few diseases resulting from tick bites may need hospitalization and intravenous administration of antibiotics.

Limiting the amount of exposed skin, wearing hand gloves and long boots, etc. can help prevent the risk of a tick bite.

First aid for tick bites before the visit to a doctor includes:

  • If the tick is still attached to the skin, remove it with a pair of clippers or visit a doctor. Then clean the area with a cleansing cream or an antiseptic, and water.
  • Itchiness can be alleviated with topical or oral drugs that have diphenhydramine.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.