Ticks are bloodsucking parasites that feed on the blood of humans and pets. Ticks are most common in summer months, when more number of people tend to go on hikes or camping in grassy or wooded areas. There are more than 800 species of ticks identified all over the world. The reason why tick bites often go unnoticed is because they usually do not cause any itchiness or other visible symptoms. Ticks can also be differentiated into hard and soft varieties. Humans and pets mostly encounter hard ticks, which attach themselves to the host’s skin.
Let us study what happens to the human body when a tick bites us:
What happens to human skin after a tick bite?
A tick always tries to search for a suitable area on the host’s skin, where it can attach itself. So, in most cases, you will see ticks attached behind the ears, on the scalp, at the back of the knees, in the groin, under the arms etc.Two reactions can occur when tick bites humans:
- Allergic reaction and tick bite itchiness
Like all other bloodsucking parasites, ticks also inject a toxin in the host’s body to prevent the blood from coagulating. This enables them to feed easily on the blood meal. However, some people are highly allergic to this toxin, as a result of which their body secretes histamine to counter it. The result is tick bite itchiness, swelling, redness, pain or inflammation.In rare cases, this allergic reaction could turn into anaphylaxis shock, in which case it is extremely important to seek prompt medical treatment.
- Tick Bite paralysis
Tick bite paralysis is a result of infection occurring due to an organism in the tick. The saliva of the tick contains a neurotoxin that affects the bitten hosts’ limbs, skin and other organs. The symptoms include multiple itchy rashes, fatigue, headache, fever, flu-like symptoms, tenderness of the lymph nodes and even facial paralysis. Tick bite paralysis is most common in cases where the tick is not removed immediately from the skin. The tick continues to engorge and feed on the host’s blood. Thankfully, most symptoms disappear after the tick has been removed.
Additionally, ticks can also cause several infectious diseases including Tick Typhus, Lyme disease, Q fever, Rocky Mountain Fever, etc.
How to relieve tick bite itchiness?
First and foremost, make sure that you remove the tick completely using the following steps.
- Using tweezers grasp the tick closer to the skin, towards its head and pull it out vertically, ensuring that no mouthparts are left behind. In absence of tweezers, you can use a tissue paper to pull the tick out. Never use your bare hands for tick removal as this can lead to tick infections described above.
- Never spray toxins on the skin to kill an attached tick.
- Never use methods like spirits, pins, matches etc-though these are popular methods of tick removal.
To relieve tick bite itchiness use the following methods:
- Wash the bitten area using warm water and antibacterial soap solution.
- Cold compresses such as ice wrapped in towel or a packet of frozen vegetables can be applied to the swollen skin. This will bring down swelling and relieve stop tick bite itchiness.
- Cortisone creams are also very helpful in bringing down redness and inflammation at the tick bite site.
- For extreme tick bite itchiness, non sedating antihistamines can be used. Continue taking these until the tick bite swelling and pain goes down.
- For blistering or broken skin, it is best to apply topical antibacterial ointments. If there is pain as well, you can use ointments with lignocaine or other local anesthetics. These help relieve tick bite itchiness as well as swelling, pain and other uncomfortable symptoms.
- Analgesics can be used for fever, pain as well as tick bite itchiness.
Tick bite itchiness can be prevented by avoiding ticks in the first place. This can be achieved by walking in the middle of the grassy trails as far as possible, spraying clothes and skin with insecticides such as DEET and also wearing protective clothing consisting of full sleeved shirts, pants and socks with covered shoes. All these precautions can help one avoid tick bite itchiness and also many potential diseases and infections.