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Itchy? It could be a tick bite

Learning about ticks will help you avoid them.

Learning about ticks will help you avoid them.

Francene Lee Taylor

It’s now tick season, and with Australians generally having a low awareness of the major health issues they can cause, now is the time to get informed.

Tick Awareness Australia will be launched in Byron Shire during October to educate on tick avoidance and the safe removal of ticks.

To find out about Lyme disease and other tick-borne nasties, Arthur Johnson, author of Bitten By The Bug, will be joined by Francene Lee Taylor, founder of Tick Awareness Australia and the Northern Rivers Tick-Borne Disease Network.

We will be at Santos Mullumbimby on October 5 from 10am and at Santos Byron Bay on Friday October 7 from 10am.

If you find a tick on yourself, children or a pet, it’s best to detach the tick as quickly and safely as possible without waiting for it to detach by itself.

The safest way to remove a tick includes pointed tweezers, and it’s possible to grab even the poppy-sized nymph right down next to the skin.

The next step is to simply pull the tick out like a splinter. Twisting or jerking a tick can cause the mouthpiece to break off and remain in the skin. Always pull the tick in a steady motion straight out.

When the tick feels threatened it fights to stay in its host.

When removing a tick, people often find that after the tick’s body has been pulled off, its mouthpiece is left in them.

If the mouthpiece remains you can attempt to remove it, or it will work its way out naturally over time. If concerned, consult your doctor. 

After removal, disinfect the bite area with rubbing alcohol, tea-tree oil or a strong solution of anti-bacterial soap.

Never crush or squeeze a tick with your fingers because it can squeeze the contents of the tick into you.

Ticks hunt by detecting the carbon dioxide content in their host’s breath, and the ammonia in their sweat.

Poised on a plant or blade of grass, with their front legs extended for their host in what is known as ‘questing behaviour’, they wait for their prey to brush past, enabling them to attach to a host.

Ticks ride on birds, can be blown in the wind or carried by inanimate objects such as vehicles or human clothing.

During attachment, ticks inject a mixture of numerous different bacteria and viruses in a cocktail of disease. Ticks acquire these microbes from reservoir animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, bandicoots and migratory birds.

Paralysis ticks inject a poison that can be fatal.

Adult ticks can feed on their host for around three days. By secreting anaesthetics in their saliva, ticks can go unnoticed and potentially drop off before being detected.

Symptoms

Symptoms of tick-borne disease include a prolonged flu-like condition, headaches, stiff neck, numbness, extreme fatigue, rashes, gut issues, headaches, muscle and joint pain. Any infections can suppress the host’s immune system, which can add to the difficulty of diagnosis and treatment. Thousands of people disabled by tick bites are unaware of the cause.

Tick-bite avoidance

Wearing light coloured clothing can help see them crawling on you. Perform tick checks on yourself, your children and your pets. Cut back vegetation, keeping pathways clear. Avoid brushing against tall grasses, trees and vegetation. Protect your clothing and yourself with an effective repellent. Shower when you come inside. Ticks survive washing- machine cycles, even at high temperatures. Placing clothing in a hot dryer for a minimum of six minutes will efficiently kill them. Learn to identify ticks, what they look like, where they can be found. 


2 responses to “Itchy? It could be a tick bite”

  1. Larry Edson says:

    Always good to see an emphasis on tick awareness. It’s especially important to note that no animal kills more pets in Australia than Paralysis ticks!

    It’s vital that you do your best to protect your dog or cat from ticks. Be sure to stay current on their flea and tick prevention, try to avoid areas (like tall grasslands) where ticks are likely to live, and THOROUGHLY check your pet for ticks after EVERY outing to the woods or bush.

    It takes just a little work to keep your pet safe from paralysis ticks. We’ve put a handy infographic together on how to do it at http://top10petinsurance.com.au/paralysis-tick-infographic/

  2. Chris Roberts says:

    A great resource produced by the Australian Association of Bush Regenerators ‘Ticks and tick-borne diseases – protecting yourself’ is available at
    http://www.aabr.org.au/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/AABR-Ticks-and-tick-borne-diseases-protecting-yourself1.pdf

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