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Tick bites on Humans – Images, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Updated on August 18, 2014

Ticks are almost microscopic creatures, approximately the size of a pin tip. Humans can experience tick bites from a variety of tick species. Nearly 800 types of ticks are said to be prevalent on earth for almost ninety million years. It may however be noted that just two kinds of ticks can pass on pathogens to humans via tick bites. They are hard ticks whose backs are covered with a hard plate, and soft ticks who do not have any hard plate covering.

Symptoms of tick bites

A few common signs and symptoms accompanying ticks bites are mentioned below:

  • Tick bites generally do not result in pain or distress. It is so even after the tick has stopped feeding and dropped off a victim’s body.
  • The location of tick bites will later develop a visible rash that is extremely itchy, and which causes widespread redness and burning sensations in the affected area. A few patients may also suffer from localized pain.
  • Serious cases of tick bite rash may form in people with allergies to the tick’s saliva or other emissions, or in those with supersensitive skin. Such individuals may also suffer from additional anomalies like swelling, numbness, and inflammation of the skin; shortness of breath; and even coma.
  • Rarely, affected people may experience severe symptoms like problems in breathing, weakness, fever, vomiting, disorientation, elevated heartbeat, confusion, extensive inflammation, and headaches, etc.

Causes of tick bites

  • Different types of ticks are usually found to inhabit thickly forested areas that have plentiful tall grasses and shrubs. People who visit such regions are at increased risk to tick bites.
  • Tick bites usually appear on those skin regions which are unprotected, uncovered, and bare; more so when spending time on adventurous trips to densely wooded regions.

Information about ticks

A tick’s life cycle is quite complex and consists of 4 stages, i.e., eggs, larva, nymphs, and adult male and female ticks. All the forms, with the exception of eggs, need blood to survive. Most male ticks tend to die after mating. Female ticks predominantly cause almost all instances of tick bites in humans, and are also primarily responsible for the spread of diseases.

  • Ticks don’t have wings. Therefore they can’t fly. They also do not possess the ability to hop from one place to another, but can just crawl to different places. Ticks do not have a fondness for a specific kind of blood and can suck the blood of both humans and animals. Regular blood feasts are needed by most ticks for survival. However, a few tick species can live for nearly 12 months without blood meals.
  • Hard ticks tend to crawl and attach onto the skin of a victim. They then commence their blood feast lasting for several hours or even some days. After the tick has had its fill of blood, it swells up, stops feeding, and then falls off the host. The only symptoms of this feeding session include a tick bite scar and the transmission of germs.
  • Soft ticks, on the other hand, tend to suck on blood for just an hour. The pathogens get transmitted to the host in just a minute after a soft tick bite.
  • Almost all types of ticks leave a bite mark post a blood feast. But, only soft and hard ticks have been found to pass on germs into the blood and body of their victims, via saliva and other secretions.

Tick bites and resultant illnesses in humans

Most types of hard and soft ticks carry varied kinds of pathogens. Tick bites by different species can result in the below listed illnesses in humans:

  • Certain types of hard tick bites can spread the Coxiella burnetii bacteria causing Q fever
  • Transmission of Babesia protozoa via tick bites of certain hard tick variety causes Babesiosis.
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever is caused due to American dog tick bites.
  • Lyme disease is caused due to transfer of Borrelia bacteria via deer tick bites.
  • Transfer of Rickettsia bacteria via Rocky Mountain wood tick bites or brown dog tick bites.
  • Colorado tick fever is caused due to passage of the Coltivirus RNA virus via the tick bites of certain hard tick species.
  • Ehrlichiosis is caused due to transfer of Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii bacteria via One Star tick bites.

Treatment

Tick bites can be minor and rarely cause any discomfort or pain. However, hard tick and soft tick bites can result in the transfer of deadly germs. It is therefore vital to seek immediate medical attention in all instances of tick bites.

  • Patients exposed to certain diseases arising from tick bites may need to be hospitalized and then given intravenous antibiotics.

People with tick bites may follow the below listed self-care guidelines before visiting a doctor:

  • Use a pair of clippers and carefully remove the tick if it is still clinging onto the skin; or you may directly go see a doctor.
  • Use an antiseptic or a cleansing cream and warm water to clean the area after removing the tick.

Oral or topical drugs containing diphenhydramine can help ease itchiness.

Tick Bites Pictures

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    • profile image

      Igwe Ikechukwu 

      2 years ago

      What is the burden of tick bite in the US....;long term side effects and cosmetic consequence.....

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