Tick bite swelling is a common symptom occurring due to tick bites. Red and oozing tick bite swelling is often seen on dogs, cats, horses and even humans.The question is: should you be concerned? What should you do to relieve this pain and swelling? Do tick bite swellings always lead to Lyme’s disease?
We will answer all these questions regarding tick bite swelling in this guide.
What causes tick bite swelling?
Ticks are small parasites which suck blood from animals and humans. You could get tick bites not just from grassy trails in forest areas but also from your own backyard. Ticks, unlike fleas, do not jump or fly. Instead, they wait patiently for their host and once they find one in their proximity, they slowly crawl up its body and seek a place to hide. In animals, they tend to hide under the thick fur typically found in the back and neck area or between the shoulder blades. In humans, ticks crawl up the clothing and find a place on the skin to sink their teeth into. On an average, ticks are known to remain on their host for up to 2 weeks.
Ticks require a blood meal for which they insert their sharp mouth parts into the host’s skin. To help prevent the blood from coagulating, ticks also inject a protein into the host’s blood. This facilitates ease of acquiring a blood meal. Some animals are overly sensitive to this protein. As a result, they develop symptoms like itching, redness, pain and even temporary paralysis. In majority of the cases, the bitten animal or human might not develop any of these symptoms.
Is tick bite swelling dangerous? What can you do about it?
Most cases of tick bites, despite the swelling, crusting, rash and itchiness are not dangerous. In horses, tick bite swellings are very common and they typically subside a few days after the tick has been removed. Do make sure you apply some warm/cold compress to relieve the pain and swelling in the region.
Here are some steps to remove the tick:
- Grasp the tick firmly using tweezers or a tissue paper and pull it out vertically upwards without squeezing, making sure there are no mouthparts left behind.
- Wash the site with some soap and warm water.
- Observe the bitten region for redness, watery discharge etc. If any of these signs occur, and are also accompanied by fever, pain or muscle weakness or confusion, make sure you call the doctor/vet immediately.
In case a tick bite swelling starts to ooze, let it drain completely. You could apply some antibiotic cream to the area.
Tick bite swelling in the groin and Lyme disease
Tick bite swelling or rash in the groin area is also common in animals, mainly horses. The swollen part may be tender to touch and the animal might not allow you or the vet to examine it. To know when tick bite swelling might turn to Lyme’s disease is to watch out for a red rash along with fever and muscle aches. This generally occurs a few weeks after the bite has first occurred. The rash usually extends up to 5cm in the given area. The lesions accompanying the rash may appear reddish blue in color though rarely with a bull’s eye formation. This rash is the main symptom of Lyme’s and is called Erythema Migrans. Nearly 70 to 80% people bitten by ticks are likely to develop such a rash, but only 2% of all tick bite rashes actually develop into Lyme’s disease. The typical incubation period between the actually time of bite to development of Lyme’s is 3-30 days.
In Lyme’s disease, the hard tick bite swelling and rash in the groin do not go away rather they continue to grow and spread. Often primary health care providers have mistaken such a rash to occur due to spider bites.
As stated before: watch out for signs of fever, muscle spasms and pain that last for up to 4 weeks or longer after the suspected bite. If these occur you or your pet might be in the 2% group of victims of tick bites that actually develop Lyme’s Disease. Untreated Lyme’s disease and tick bite swelling can develop several other complications such as lingering joint pain, weakness in knees etc that can even last for months or years.