A tick is a relative of the great animal subgroup that includes spiders and scorpions. They are small creatures that usually inhabit the woods, forest, and any generally rough outdoors areas. Ticks are born with six legs–just like insects—but mature into adults with an extra pair of legs. They mainly get their nutrition through hematophagy, or drinking the blood of other animals. They subsist on a healthy diet of blood from deer, moose, bears, and even the occasional human.
Ticks are parasites which attach themselves to their hosts using a very sturdy set of teeth. Once they’ve latched on, they cling to the hosts until they are fully engorged with blood. This is reminiscent of how fleas attach themselves to their hosts. While these bites aren’t painful most of the time, tick bites have been known to cause life-threatening illnesses such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The bites can also cause an anaphylactic or sudden allergic reaction which may cause the victim to suddenly stop breathing and die on the spot. In these instances, a person who knows that she may have a strong allergic reaction to a tick bite should carry an epinephrine pen (or a small syringe) which will help her control her body’s reaction to the invading parasite.
To prevent infection and other untoward incidents, this is how one should treat a tick bite.
First aid is always the frontline when it comes to any medical emergency. Get an ice pack and put it directly on top of the bite. The cold temperature will numb the pain and reduce the likelihood of swelling in the area.
There are ice packs made for the outdoors; these don’t need to be put inside a cooler or freezer to be kept cold. Make sure that your first aid kit has a lot of these supplies in case of similar circumstances.
Do not try to physically manipulate the bite wound or the area around it. Scratching the bite might push the bacteria even further inward, making the likelihood of infection higher.
If the area is really itching, use a topical cream that could reduce the itching sensation. Make sure that the bite is not covered by the cream or ointment.
Go to a doctor and tell him or her what happened. If there are some concerns regarding the possibility of infection or allergic reactions, the physician may prescribe a set of antibiotics or antihistamines to keep other diseases and symptoms at bay.
Should symptoms of fever, chills and rashes appear after the consult, return to your doctor and seek the next step.
Of course, the best way to deal with tick bites is to prevent them altogether. If you’re venturing into the woods, it’s best to wear long-sleeved clothes and long pants. You can also use insect-repelling lotions which are meant for mosquitoes; these also work on ticks to some degree. If you have pets at home, give them regular baths with insecticide shampoo to prevent possible tick and flea infestation.
A tick bite usually doesn’t end up in Lyme disease, but it’s way better to err on the side of caution than to be careless.