Tick ​​bite: how to recognize it and what to do

Tick ​​bite: how to recognize it and what to do
Tick ​​bite: how to recognize it and what to do
  • What does it look like
  • How dangerous
  • How to protect yourself from ticks
  • What to do if you are bitten

What does a tick and its bite look like?

Ticks are small blood-sucking parasites. They live in tall grass and bushes, prefer shade and high humidity, so they are often found near bodies of water. They do not fall onto their victims from tree branches, but are able to quickly climb up stems and clothing, which is why they are often found on the head and neck. Once on a person or animal, the tick looks for a place with thin skin and closely spaced blood vessels. Having found it, it attaches itself, and does it almost painlessly.

Andrey Besedin comments: “Often a tick bite goes unnoticed. The tick secretion released during suction contains anesthetic substances that numb the bite site. Several hours pass before the victim begins to feel unwell and decides to examine himself. Only after a day or two does a feeling of slight nagging pain arise, as a local inflammatory reaction develops at the site of suction, sometimes with suppuration. The bite wound is usually very itchy and heals very slowly.”

Why is a tick bite dangerous?

Ticks carry many diseases, the most common and dangerous to humans being tick-borne encephalitis (1) and borreliosis (Lyme disease). Both, if untimely or incorrectly treated, can lead to disability or even death.

Andrey Besedin: “Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by microorganisms of the genus Borrelia. It responds well to antibiotic therapy, unlike the tick-borne encephalitis virus. Alas, specific therapy and methods for treating tick-borne encephalitis do not yet exist. Vaccination is used as a specific prevention; this is the most reliable preventive measure.”

If you spend time in an endemic region, you should definitely get vaccinated against encephalitis. Before traveling around Europe, check the website of the Rospotrebnadzor department for the region where you are going – there is always up-to-date information about the epidemic situation regarding tick-borne encephalitis.

For example, in the Moscow region (2), the Dmitrovsky and Taldomsky districts are considered endemic areas for tick-borne encephalitis; it is strongly recommended to be vaccinated before visiting them.

Additional information on tick activity can also be obtained on the Rospotrebnadzor website (3).

A tick bite is dangerous due to tick-borne encephalitis and borreliosis
A tick bite is dangerous due to tick-borne encephalitis and borreliosis.

How to protect yourself from ticks

Even if you are vaccinated against tick-borne encephalitis, you should not relax. There is no vaccine for Lyme disease, and the bite itself can at least cause inflammation of the affected area. Therefore, during the period of tick activity – from April to October – the following rules must be observed:

  • even before walking through a potentially dangerous area, you can treat clothes, shoes, backpacks and accessories (neck scarves, scarves, caps) with anti-tick product (4);
  • stay close to the center of the road or path and away from tall grass and bushes;
  • wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves and trousers, tuck trousers into socks and boots, secure the cuffs of the sleeves at the wrists, and cover the head;
  • use repellents for exposed areas of the body;
  • inspect clothing and exposed areas of the body every two hours;
  • after a walk, you need to carefully remove and inspect clothes and shoes, dry or wash clothes at high temperature or treat them with a tick repellent;
  • take a shower or bath and examine the body, paying special attention to the scalp, armpits, groin, area behind the ears and behind the knees;
  • examine your pet if it accompanied you on a walk; There are special anti-tick products for animals, but it is better to consult a veterinarian before purchasing and using them.

If you are going to the country and your site is located in an endemic area, you can treat it against ticks. Before traveling to a country hotel or camp, it would also be a good idea to check whether its territory is being processed.

Andrey Besedin says: “It would be great to treat the areas against ticks, this definitely needs to be done. But don’t forget about general awareness. If you cultivate your plot (6, 8, 10 acres, 1 hectare, tourist center, camp), and your neighbor does not do this, then, of course, the efficiency decreases. Try to come to an agreement with your neighbors and work on the territories together.”

What to do if you find a tick on yourself

If a tick crawls on clothing or skin, you need to shake it off. If it has already stuck, you need to carefully and quickly remove it.

If microbes are found in the material that was sent for research, the doctor will definitely describe the “red flags” (symptoms) that you should expect and the timing of their possible appearance. As a rule, it all depends on what was found in the tick itself. Some of them can be carriers of several infections at once and, as a result, infect a person with several diseases at once.

If you are bitten by a tick in an area where tick-borne encephalitis is endemic and you are not vaccinated, your doctor may suggest administering immunoglobulin for prevention. Andrey Besedin: “There is no alternative. There are no other methods of emergency prevention and emergency treatment.”

Since the very fact of a bite can go unnoticed, after visiting potentially dangerous regions you need to pay special attention to your condition so as not to miss the onset of the disease.

“If in the first days or weeks after visiting the forest your temperature rises, you feel causeless malaise and weakness that are not associated with a cold, be sure to consult a doctor,” advises Andrei Besedin.