(See also Introduction to Bites and Stings Introduction to Bites and Stings Many creatures, including humans, bite when frightened or provoked. Others include Alligators and crocodiles Iguanas Mites Ticks read more .)
Ticks can carry many diseases. For example, deer ticks may carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease Lyme Disease Lyme disease is a tick-transmitted infection caused by Borrelia species, primarily by Borrelia burgdorferi and sometimes by Borrelia mayonii in the United States. These spiral-shaped bacteria... read more or the protozoa that cause babesiosis Babesiosis Babesiosis is infection of red blood cells caused by the single-celled protozoan parasite Babesia. Babesiosis is transmitted by the same type of deer ticks (Ixodidae) that transmits Lyme disease... read more . Other types of ticks may carry the bacteria that cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a potentially fatal rickettsial infection that is transmitted by dog ticks and wood ticks. It causes a rash, headache, and high fever. People become infected... read more or ehrlichiosis Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis Ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis are tick-borne infections that cause fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, and a general feeling of illness (malaise). Symptoms of ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis... read more .
The bites of pajaroello ticks, which are present in Mexico and the southwestern United States, produce pus-filled blisters that break, leaving open sores that develop thick black scabs (eschars).
Most tick bites do not transmit disease and are painless. However, they often cause a red bump and itching at the site of the bite and may cause allergic skin reactions in some people.
In North America, some tick species secrete a toxin in their saliva that causes tick paralysis. A person with tick paralysis feels weak and fatigued. Some people become restless, weak, and irritable. After a few days, a progressive paralysis develops, usually moving up from the legs. The muscles that control breathing also may become paralyzed.
Tick paralysis is cured rapidly by finding and removing the tick or ticks. If breathing is impaired, oxygen therapy Oxygen Therapy Oxygen is a gas that makes up about 21% of the air we breathe. The lungs take oxygen from the air and transfer it to the bloodstream (see Exchanging Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide). Oxygen is needed... read more or a mechanical ventilator Mechanical Ventilation Mechanical ventilation is use of a machine to aid the movement of air into and out of the lungs. Some people with respiratory failure need a mechanical ventilator (a machine that helps air get... read more may be needed to assist with breathing.
Tick bites can sometimes be prevented by taking precautions in areas where ticks are common (see Figure: Preventing Tick Bites Preventing Tick Bites Lyme disease is a tick-transmitted infection caused by Borrelia species, primarily by Borrelia burgdorferi and sometimes by Borrelia mayonii in the United States. These spiral-shaped bacteria... read more ).
Tick removal should be done as soon as possible. Removal is best accomplished by grasping the tick with curved tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pulling it directly out. The tick’s head, which may not come out with the body, should be removed, because it can cause prolonged inflammation. Most of the folk methods of removing a tick, such as applying alcohol, fingernail polish, or petroleum jelly or using a hot match, are ineffective and may cause skin damage or cause the tick to expel infected saliva into the bite site.
After the tick is removed, an antiseptic should be applied. If swelling and discoloration are present, an oral antihistamine may be helpful. If the tick appears to have been attached for an extended period (the tick is very swollen) or Lyme disease is prevalent in the area, doctors may give an antibiotic to help prevent Lyme disease.
If a tick bite, such a pajaroello tick bite, causes significant skin damage, the doctor extensively cleans and removes any dead skin from the wound. The doctor may apply corticosteroids and antiseptics to the area to prevent further skin damage and infection.