What is a Tick?
A tick is a small arachnid, similar to a small spider. There are over 800 known species of ticks and fossil records show that ticks have been around for over 90 million years. So they have learned how to adapt and how survive quite well in those MILLIONS of years. A tick is an external parasite which needs the blood from a host in order to live and to complete its life cycle. They can live off of the blood of mammals, reptiles, birds, and even amphibians. The tick will fasten/bite the host's skin and feed off of the host's blood.
Life Cycle of a Tick
Ticks go through a various complex stages of their life cycles. The tick begins as an egg, then moves to the stage as a larvae, followed by the nymph, and then adult. When the tick is past the egg stage it must have food in order to continue developing and moving through its various life stages. A tick cannot hop, jump, or fly. They crawl and reach out to grab onto a host. Ticks are not very selective of their hosts, and when they are in the earlier stages of their life are even less selective.
A tick finds its host through body odor, a host's breath, moisture, body heat, and vibrations. Since ticks cannot fly or jump they must wait patiently for a host to pass by. A tick will often post itself on a leaf and wait patiently with its legs outstretched waiting for the opportunity to attach to a host.
Biting and Attaching
Some ticks will looks for an area of skin where the skin is thinner, such as behind the ear. Others will simply bite into the skin where they have accessed the host and begin feeding. Some ticks will feed for ten minutes others will feed for days. Ticks can live for over a year without attaching to a host and having a blood meal.
Bitten By A Tick
Ticks are transmitters of disease. A tick can transmit disease between many hosts and the transmission of the disease usually occurs towards the end of the tick's meal. The tick transmits the disease between host through its saliva and mouth secretions which then enter the blood stream of the host. Ticks can carry a variety of diseases such as Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, and tick borne meningoencephalitis.
Tick bites are usually painless and sometimes the host does not even notice the tick while it is attached. When the tick is full, it simply falls off. However, after the tick has fallen off the bite may begin to become itchy, redness, or some burning.
After a tick bite individuals may begin feeling flu like symptoms, fever, numbness, rash, confusion, weakness, paralysis, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and swelling in the joints. However, there are many people who do not develop any symptoms at all. It may take up to three weeks for a person bitten by a tick to feel the symptoms from the bite.
If an individual feels any of the above mentioned symptoms they should see a doctor immediately. Individuals who are pregnant and bitten should also seek medical attention or if when removing the tick, any part of the tick's body remains lodged in the skin.
Removing a Tick
Using tweezers grip the tick as close as possible to the skin and using an upward force remove the tick. Try not to jerk, twist, or crush the tick. Your goal is to remove the entire tick without leaving behind any of the mouth in the skin. Be sure to disinfect the area by washing the area with soap. If bitten, the individual may want to store the tick, just in case symptoms should develop and the tick needed to be tested for diseases.
*It is very important that when removing a tick, that the tick is not crushed. This may force disease into the host's blood stream. Also, it is beneficial to apply an antibacterial cream to the bite area.
Video Demonstrating the Removal of a Tick
To avoid a tick attaching to you, stay out of wooded areas. If in wooded areas, individuals wear long sleeves and pants when walking through woods or brush. If hiking stay toward the center of the trail. If you are forced to walk through tall grass, woods, or brush wear light colored clothing so ticks can be easily spotted on the clothing.
Individuals may also apply an insect repellent that is safe for use on human skin. It is important to bathe or shower directly after working in the woods, tall grass, or brush. Also, any ticks that may remain on clothes unknowingly will be killed in the dryer if the dryer runs for an hour or longer. It is also important to check each other after returning from the outdoors.