Tick Bites, Tick Removal & Tick Diseases
Ticks are arthropods (Arthropoda) which means they belong to the order Arachnida. They have eight legs and four antennae like insects but with five pairs of appendages instead of just two.
Most ticks do not cause disease in humans or other animals; however some species carry diseases such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
The word “tick” comes from the Old English word tukl meaning “to scratch”. A tick is a tiny roundworm that lives in the blood of mammals and birds.
The worm is usually found in small numbers at first, but it grows rapidly and eventually reaches large numbers. These worms are called nits because they look like little pin pricks on the skin. Nits may also grow into adult stages where they can cause an infection if bitten by another infected animal or person.
A tick’s life cycle takes between three and seven days depending on the temperature. During this time, the tick feeds on blood, then moves onto other body parts including fur, feathers and sometimes internal organs.
After feeding, the larva (a stage of the worm) begins to develop inside the host. Larvae are very small compared to adults and cannot survive outside their hosts’ bodies without assistance from their hosts.
The adult stage of the worm can only survive on blood and will eventually fall off the host and lay dormant until it comes into contact with another host.
Life cycle of tick
All ticks begin their lives as eggs, which are laid out in a safe place for the mother tick to lay her eggs. Most ticks do not live on people but live outdoors in wooded areas, tall grasses and bushes.
The tick is a parasite. It gets the food it needs from animals and humans, which it bites with its saw-like devices in its mouth called chelicerae.
The chelicerae cut through skin and squirts an anticoagulant into the wound so that the host’s blood does not clot. When the host moves away, the tick drops off and lays eggs.
People and animals that get bitten by ticks experience swollen, itchy red spots at the feeding site. A small red dot in the middle of the rash or bump can be seen if someone looks very closely.
Most people get these rashes at the site of the bite within two weeks after they get bitten. In addition to itching, rashes can also cause pain and a general sick feeling.
Ticks have lots of hosts, including deer, cattle, sheep, birds and people. Ticks are not insects or spiders; they are more closely related to crabs and shrimp.
The mouth parts of a tick are like the pincers of a crab. Ticks also have eight legs and an oval-shaped body. All ticks are parasites, which means they live off of other animals without contributing anything to their hosts’ welfare.
Most ticks live on the ground but will climb tall grasses and bushes in search of a host. Ticks do not jump or fly; they must be carried from one place to another by the wind or animals.
Ticks are most common in spring and summer.
Ticks are small eight-legged bugs that usually live on shrubs and grasses. They are not insects, but members of the arachnid family, which also includes spiders.
Their bodies are small, but they can grow to be bigger than the nail on your little finger. Most ticks have three body parts: the head, the abdomen and the lower part called the capitulum.
Ticks wait on blades of grass, usually at the edge of a wood or field, for an animal to pass by. When this happens, they grab on with their claws and pincers and climb aboard.
Ticks do not fly or jump; they can only crawl slowly.
The tick has eight legs. Its head is drawn out into a tube with sharp teeth on it like the tube of a pump handle.
The tick puts this tube into the skin of the animal and sucks its blood. The tick does not kill the animal. Many ticks may fasten themselves on one animal, but the host will not die from this.
The young tick, called a larva, is very small when it first closes itself up in its case. It is then about 1/32 of an inch long.
The case of the larva is so small that more than 2,000 could lie side by side in the space of 1 inch.
Ticks wait for a host to pass by. They can only crawl slowly and must rely on animals to brush against them as they pass.
Most ticks do not live on people; they live in forests, fields and meadows. Ticks are dark brown or black in color.
They usually grow to be about the size of a large pinhead. Ticks have three life stages: egg, larva or nymph, and adult.
Ticks are not insects. They do not have wings and never grow up.
But they do look like bugs to most people.
Adult female ticks lay hundreds of eggs. They drop from their host to the ground when full of blood, lay their eggs and die.
Ticks do not live more than a year. They do not move around much after they have fed. This is why most ticks are found where animals have passed by and dropped off some on the ground.
The female tick burrows into the skin of a passing animal to feed. The mouth parts are like a tube with teeth inside it.
The teeth cut the skin and the tube is pushed in to let the blood flow down it into the tick’s mouth.
Ticks do not fly or jump onto their hosts. They can only crawl.
They wait on grass blades for an animal to pass by and brush against them. Then they grab on with their claws and pincers and climb aboard.
Ticks are not killed by most insecticides or repellents. You can kill them by dabbing liquid benzyl acetone on the skin and clothing.
This chemical smells like newly-mixed paint and is poisonous if swallowed or inhaled. Use repellents containing DEET instead.
Bites of these ticks are very uncommon in the United States. You probably would not get Lyme disease if bitten by one.
The tick must be attached for at least 12 hours and the disease will not affect you if you are over nine years old. It is a very serious disease of the nervous system in young children and can be fatal in some cases.
Lyme disease is spread in the U.S.
by ticks that live on deer. People get bitten by these ticks when they go walking through grassy areas or hiking in the country. Many people get red rings and swellings at the tick place. If you are not treated with antibiotics, you can have other symptoms appearing weeks or months later.
The Lyme disease germ is common in some parts of the United States. It is spread by the deer tick and other types of ticks.
In most cases, the tick must be attached for at least 24 hours before the disease is passed on to a person.
You should have no more than one swollen lymph gland. If you have more, it could be sign of something worse than Lyme disease.
You should see a doctor right away.
About one out of every five people who get bitten by a deer tick get a bulls-eye rash from the bite. Sometimes it appears in 3 to 30 days after the bite.
The rash may be red at first and slowly grows bigger over the next few days. It may feel warm and painful. As it gets bigger, the middle clears up and often has a ring of red skin around it. It can itch.
You can catch Lyme disease from a tick that has been feeding on you for less than 24 hours. It takes at least 24 hours of feeding for the disease to be passed on.
It is still unknown if it can be spread by blood transfusions.
This causes joint pain and swelling in some people and can last for weeks or even months. Between 5 to 15% of untreated people get chronic arthritis from Lyme disease.
It can attack the heart and nervous system too.
The rarest, but most serious, of all the symptoms of Lyme disease is when it attacks the brain. This can cause a person to become easily confused or have memory problems.
A rash that looks like a bull’s-eye, with a red ring and clearing in the center appears in about 70% of cases. The rash appears anywhere from 3 to 30 days after getting bitten and is often missed by people.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Evaluation of five popular methods for tick removal (GR Needham – Pediatrics, 1985 – Am Acad Pediatrics)
- Evaluation of three commercial tick removal tools (RL Stewart, W Burgdorfer, GR Needham – Wilderness & environmental …, 1998 – Elsevier)
- Arthropod bites (G Juckett – American family physician, 2013 – aafp.org)
- Tick attachment sites (A Gunduz, S Turkmen, S Turedi, I Nuhoglu… – Wilderness & …, 2008 – Elsevier)
- Ticks feeding on humans: a review of records on human-biting Ixodoidea with special reference to pathogen transmission (A Estrada-Peña, F Jongejan – Experimental & applied acarology, 1999 – Springer)