Small and Dangerous: All About Ticks
Ticks are usually simply a minor annoyance, but some bites can have serious consequences. Preventing tick bites can help keep you safe from serious illness.
What Are Ticks?
Ticks are a common and usually harmless type of mite. They feed on blood, including that of humans and pets. They are usually easy to spot, because only their head enters the skin when they bite, while their bodies swell with blood. They can vary in size, though they are usually smaller than the eraser on a pencil, and they can be brown, black or red.
Where Do They Live?
Ticks live all over the world, but they are most common in areas with plenty of vegetation. They cannot jump or fly, so they rely on the vegetation to find their hosts. To do this, they climb to the edges of tall grass or branches and wait for a person or animal to pass by, then grab on. They do best in shady, moist places, such as wooded areas. Ticks tend to be most active in warmer weather, ranging from late spring to early fall in most areas.
What Are the Risks?
Tick bites do not pose a risk in most cases. Some people are allergic, which can result in a rash and swelling, and may progress into anaphylactic shock in some cases.
A more common risk is the transmission of tick-borne diseases. Only some ticks are infected with these diseases, and the risk can be mitigated by finding and removing ticks as quickly as possible. Lyme disease is the most well-known illness, but ticks also carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, ehrlichiosis and Colorado tick fever. The first signs of these usually involve a rash at the bite site, flu-like symptoms, fever, pain or stiffness in the neck and swollen lymph nodes. See your doctor immediately if you develop these symptoms after a tick bite.
As increasing infections with Lyme disease are reported, protecting yourself from tick bites is more important than ever. Ticks are usually little more than an annoyance, but they can transmit serious and sometimes life-threatening illnesses. Understanding these little bugs can help you protect yourself.