Ticks, like spiders and scorpions, belong to the arachnid family. They have four pairs of legs and no antenna. Ticks live on the blood of their warm-blooded victims, literally any animal or bird they can find. Living in bushes and grasses, they are able to latch on to anything that passes. Although less active in cold weather, ticks can be found, in sheltered places, almost anywhere and at any time of year.
Most ticks are about the size of an apple seed, but appear much larger when gorged with blood. Tick bits cause a variety of diseases, the best known of which are Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. They cause other severe infectious diseases as well such as relapsing fever, tularemia, and ehrlichiosis. The symptoms of all these disease, to begin with, are very similar, and flu-like. Symptoms may include fever, headache, chills, cough, chest pain, and weakness. A rash may also appear.
Expanding rash of Lyme disease.
Although the site of a tick bite may, at first, appear only as a red spot, it can develop into a crater like ulcer. A surrounding rash may develop, which gets larger over time. This expanding rash is a symptom of Lyme disease, an extremely serious disease that can lead to permanent illness, including serious heart and joint problems. The rash may not appear for several weeks, so seek medical attention immediately if you think you have been bitten by a tick. If possible, bring the tick with you to your physician.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever rash.
One of the other extremely serious disease that tick bites can cause is Rocky Mountain spotted fever. In addition to the flu-like symptoms, there is a distinctive rash which may appear on the body but also on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. This is the only disease that displays a rash in these two areas. (see foto above) In some cases, both Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be fatal, if left untreated.
The bite of a deer tick.
There are several ways to protect yourself and your family from tick bites. Clear the brush away from your home. When working or walking in grassy or bushy areas, wear long sleeves and long pants, preferably tucked into your socks. Light clothing will make brown or black ticks more visible. Check yourself, your clothing, and your children, before coming indoors. Use an insect repellent. On children, use a lower concentration. Make sure you wash the solution off your skin when you return indoors.
Removing a tick from a pet.
If you have a pet, run your hands over their coat when they come indoors. If you find a tick, on an animal or human, remove it immediately. There are tick-removal devices on the market, but just as effective is a pair of cosmetic tweezers. Grasp the tick as close as possible to the skin, and pull gently but firmly to remove. Wash the area in warm soapy water and apply an antiseptic. Although this may not prevent disease, it can prevent minor infections. Put the body of the tick in a small sealed jar or plastic bag and take it with you to your physician.
Realize that children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable to all disease, including those carried by ticks. Prompt medical attention is the best way to prevent any lasting damage.