Immediately, we note that it is quite difficult to unequivocally identify the tick bite without finding the parasite itself on the body. The fact is, the body's response to puncture of the skin with ixodides is approximately the same as that of the bites of various blood-sicking insects, and the external signs of tick bites and other bloodsuckers are generally similar.
For example, the photo below shows how a taiga tick bite looks on human skin:
And here is a midge bite:
As you can see, the appearance of bite marks in this case is not very different.
Nevertheless, taking into account the individual details in the appearance of tick bites on the human body makes it possible to distinguish them from the bites of other arthropods with a certain accuracy. Knowledge of the biology of Ixodes ticks, including the specifics of their attack on animals and people, helps to distinguish between bites.
All these nuances will be discussed in more detail later. including situations where, in appearance of a wound, it is already possible with a high probability to talk about infection with a dangerous tick-borne infection.
As in most cases, tick bite looks
In most cases, a tick bite looks like a well-marked spot with redness, in the center of which there is a wound with a diameter of about 1-2 mm. The photo below shows examples from which it is clear why the wound is comparatively large (the parasite's head literally completely sinks under the skin):
The wound caused by the puncture of the skin, within an hour after the tick has been detached, is crushed, with some swelling and redness remaining.
On a note
It is a clearly visible wound in the center of the bite that is an important hallmark of tick bites. In many other parasites, the bloodsucking organs are so thin proboscis that there is practically no trace left from the piercing of the skin. The ticks and mouthparts are rather large, and the method of feeding requires the formation of a relatively large hole in the skin of the host.
In the ordinary case, the bite site no longer itches the next day, after 2-3 days the swelling and redness subside, and after a few days the peel at the wound site peels off.
After about 10-12 days, there is no trace left at the site of the tick bite.
This is normal when the infection does not occur in the wound from the bite and the inflammatory process does not develop, and the wound itself is not disturbed, combed and does not damage the protective crust on it. However, often due to various undesirable factors, the situation can be complicated, which is accompanied by the appearance of additional unpleasant symptoms.
For example, if a sucked tick is not properly detached from the skin, even if the parasite remains unharmed (that is, no parts of its body remain in the wound), a dense bump is often formed around the bite site, itchy. This is due to injury to the tissues of the roughly pulled out mouthplates of the bloodsucker, literally glued to the skin with a case of frozen saliva.
- When the parasite is extracted with fingers, excessive pressure on the body leads to the extrusion of additional portions of saliva into the wound;
- Because of the itch, the resulting bump is usually heavily combed, which further intensifies the itch, contributes to the spread of redness and can provoke infection and further suppuration of the bite site.
If a cone is smeared with anesthetic ointment in time and not disturbed, then it gradually decreases in size and completely subsides after 4-5 days.
More dangerous is the situation when, when the tick is pulled out, its body detaches from the head (gnatosome), as a result of which the oral organs remain in the wound. It is not always easy to remove them from here, because they are difficult to capture even with tweezers or tweezers from a manicure set - the gnathoid of a tick is deeply submerged in the skin, and the rupture of its body usually takes place deeper than the surface of the skin itself.
In this case, in the place of the bite, in addition to the spot of redness, there remains a noticeable black dot - the very mouthparts of the parasite.
If the severed head of the tick is not removed as a splinter, on the second or third day the tissue at the site of the bite will begin to burrow, an abscess will form here, from which later tick residues will come out with expiring pus.
Often, a painful abscess is formed with swelling. From the moment of separation of the tick to the rupture of the abscess and the expiration of pus from it, on average, it takes 3-4 days, for a few more days the abscess will heal.
When the parasite is gently unscrewed using special mite remover, at the site of attachment remains about the same wound and swelling, which are with an independent detachment of the parasite.
The picture below shows the sequence of correct unscrewing of the tick:
And here are photos with examples of tick removal with the help of various ticks makers:
On a note
It should be borne in mind that when contaminated in the wound contamination can result in bacterial infection. Therefore, the tick bite site should be disinfected immediately after extracting the parasite, for example, with green paint or an alcoholic solution of iodine. It is only important to understand that this does not affect the likelihood of developing tick-borne encephalitis or borreliosis (if the tick was the carrier of the corresponding pathogens), but helps prevent only undesirable development in the wound of a secondary bacterial infection.
In general, the tick bite can be described as slightly painful, itchy, accompanied by redness and swelling, but the main thing is hardly noticeable until the parasite is detached. While the tick is attached to the skin and sucks blood, the person practically does not feel this.
As noted above, if the parasite has already unhooked from the skin, it will be difficult to understand only by the appearance of the bite that it was a tick. Often, by certain signs, it is easier to understand that the bite was definitely not left by a tick, but by another arthropod.
How these parasites don't exactly bite
In all cases, ixodic mites only bite in order to suck blood. They never attack a person for the purpose of self-defense.
- A tick bite is never extremely painful, never causes acute throbbing pain, does not "burn." All these signs are characteristic of arthropod bites, which thus try to protect themselves or their nests and frighten a person first of all by acute pain when they are bitten (bees, wasps, scorpions, etc.);
- The tick does not bite quickly and does not run away rapidly from the site of the bite. The parasite takes a long time to choose the optimal place for suction, and even more time is needed for bloodsucking. That is, if a person inspected a part of the body a minute ago, and there was no parasite on it, and then a few minutes later a bite appeared on the same area, but the bloodsucker is not visible - it means that it was definitely not a tick;
- A tick does not hurt a person much by a bite; blood does not ooze from the wound left by him;
- With rare exceptions, tick bites do not cause a rapid generalized reaction. During the first 1-2 days after the bite, headaches, fainting, abnormal heart function, nausea and deterioration do not develop. Such symptoms may later occur with the development of an infectious disease transmitted by a tick, but not earlier than after several days of the incubation period (usually this takes several weeks). If such signs appeared in the first hours after the bite was detected, then it was not a tick that bit.
On a note
The exception to the last rule is the bite of the Australian paralyzing tick Ixodes holocyclus. At all stages of its development, its individuals emit a toxin with saliva, resulting in paralysis of the limbs in animals and humans, as well as symptoms similar to the symptoms of poliomyelitis (death is also possible). The first signs of paralysis after the bites of these ticks appear already after 6-7 hours. Type Ixodes holocyclus lives only in Australia, and in Eurasia such situations are excluded.
Photo of Ixodes holocyclus paralyzing tick mite:
Another important sign: ticks never bite through clothes, even through very thin (through tights, for example). Mosquitoes, midges, gadflies, spiders can sting through thin fabrics, wasps and bees can sting, but ticks never stick to skin through clothes.
At the same time, under loose clothing - under wide pants, shirts, T-shirts, for a head under a hat - a tick can easily bite.
Differences of the tick bite from the bites of various insects
We have already said about the first important difference: there is a red spot at the site of the tick bite and a well-marked wound, gradually becoming crusted. This is different from mosquito bites, in place of which there is only an itchy swelling, but without a visible place for the introduction of the proboscis.
From the bites of most stinging insects, spiders and scolopendra, tick bites are completely painless. Even mosquitoes that inject anesthetics into the wound do not do it so “skillfully,” and the injection immediately draws attention to themselves with a slight pain.
Tick bites differ from bites of bed bugs (and to some extent fleas) in that they are not collected in “paths” of 2-3 wounds. Each bug bites several times in a single attack, moving between the bites by 1-2 centimeters, and as a result, characteristic “chains” of reddened bumps remain on the human body.The mite bites only once, after which it disappears from the body, and therefore leaves only one skin puncture mark on the skin.
On a note
It is easy enough to distinguish a tick bite from a bite of a scolopendra, a tarantula or a small poisonous snake: these animals leave two points at once at the skin puncture sites. Scolopendra bite with two well-visible legs, spiders with two chelicera, snakes with two teeth. Consequently, there will be two clearly visible points in the places of their bites. A tick pierces the skin with a sawtooth hypostomy only in one place.
According to the shape of the wound itself, a tick bite can be distinguished from a leech bite. After the leech sticks due to the characteristic structure of its mouth apparatus, the wound looks like a small, even cross. In a tick, it just looks like a dot. After the leech falls away, the wound still bleeds for a very long time, which does not happen after tick bites.
An important characteristic difference between a tick bite and the bites of any other parasites is the development of an annular migrating erythema when infected with Lyme borreliosis. This erythema is a clearly visible red ring around the bite, gradually expanding and spreading over the skin (seeexamples in the photo below).
After the bites of any other parasite, such a formation does not appear. Depending on the duration of the incubation period of the disease in a particular person, erythema migrans occurs at different times - from several days to several months after the bite.
But judging the infection of a person with tick-borne encephalitis by the appearance of a bite does not work - apparently it does not appear.
Finally, the main feature that distinguishes tick bites from those of other blood-sucking or biting arthropods: the tick always sucks blood for a long time. Even the first instar larvae and nymphs, which require relatively little food, stick for at least several days, and adult females who suck the most blood stay on the skin for more than a week. Therefore, in most cases, the parasite is attached to the human body before it is detached.
Reverse situations happen very rarely - they can occur, for example, on a multi-day hunting and fishing trip, on hiking trips, that is, during a long stay in the wild without being able to undress, wash and look at the body.Here, a tick can suck blood from a person under clothes for several days, after which it will detach.
This means that in a situation where, after a 2-3 hour walk in the park or in the forest, a bite was found, but the parasite itself could not be found - this bite was not ticked.
What happens when the parasite sticks
Ixodic mites bite exclusively for blood supply - this is their only source of food. To saturate the parasite you need:
- Cling to clothing or the victim's fur;
- Get to a place convenient for bloodsucking;
- Pierce the skin and gain a foothold in the wound;
- Suck blood;
- Detach and leave the body of the owner.
It is important to understand that there are almost never situations in which the tick has bitten, but did not have time to suck in and crawled away.
In general, finding a host and fixing it in his skin is a complex process. Typically, the tick is on top of the stem of the grass, putting forward the front pair of legs. When a person or an animal approaches, the parasite instantly catches its host.
Then, from 2-3 minutes to an hour, the tick moves through the body of the host and searches for well-supplied places with thin skin. Then a bite occurs:
- The parasite places the palps in the sides, usually playing the role of the “sheath” and closing it with a hypostatus;
- Hypostome and chelicera cuts through the skin;
- It releases saliva into the wound, which contains many functional components (this includes anticoagulants that prevent blood coagulation and thickening, painkillers, compounds that envelop with a hypostatus and partially spread in the intercellular space, gradually harden and form a kind of case that holds the parasite very securely in the skin );
- Then the tick begins to suck blood, lymph and inflammatory infiltrate from the wound.
The photo below shows the proboscis (hypostom) of the tick:
And so the hypostom looks under a scanning electron microscope:
Representatives of different types of ticks and individuals at different stages of their life cycle tend to choose to attach different places on the body of the host. On the human body, these are most often the underarm areas, and then, in decreasing attachment frequency, the following areas follow:
- Hands (including between fingers);
- Buttocks and near-canal area;
- Neck and head (especially the area behind the ears).
The photo below shows a tick sucked into the child behind the ear:
And here the parasite dug into the throat:
It is noteworthy that in children, ticks more often than in adults attach on the head (including the hairline, often behind the ear) and sometimes even on the face - on the cheeks, on the chin.
At the same time, the area of attachment is largely determined by the way a person is dressed. If, for example, his entire body is covered with thick clothes, the parasite can get to its head from its feet and cling to it.
The duration of bloodsucking depends on the sex of the parasite and the stage of its development. Thus, nymphs of ticks of all ages feed at each stage of their development for 3-6 days, with female nymphs, on average, a day longer than men. Adult males feed about the same - 3-6 days, and adult females - on average from 8 to 14 days.
It is interesting
Some species of ticks can eat much less, and much more time. For example, the larvae of Haemaphysalis kitaokai are fed in 2-3 hours, and the female Geochelone pardalis, parasitic on turtles, disappear on average only 60 days after attachment.
It is noteworthy that during feeding the tick does not suck blood constantly. Short acts of suction are replaced by periods of rest, then by injecting another portion of saliva into the wound.Studies have shown that no more than 15% of the time that the parasite is attached to the host is spent directly on bloodsucking. This indicates a certain primitiveness of this method of feeding and, to a certain extent, decreases the survival of feeding individuals of ticks.
The photos below show the tick females that are saturated with blood:
During the entire period of bloodsucking, the parasite not only fills the digestive tract with blood and inflammatory infiltrate of the host, but at the same time actively grows and develops. It is at this time that the nymphs develop rapidly the internal organs and the growth of the integuments of the body, and in adult males and females - the maturation of the reproductive system.
Therefore, by the way, for one feeding each tick sucks blood and other fluids more than it weighs itself at the time of detachment. Within a few days of feeding on the host, most of the food consumed has time to be digested and consumed for development and growth, and the undigested components are excreted. As a result, female ticks, weighing 7–10 mg before feeding, absorb about 5,500–8,500 mg of food during attachment, but only 900–1,400 mg weigh after the falling off.
It is interesting
Virtually no environmental factors are able to cause an unabated mite to detach from the host. The fact is that the very fact of hitting the host body and fixing on it is a vital necessity for each individual. Thus, one female lays several thousand eggs, and not all of them are fertilized, and only part of the larvae hatch.
Of the several thousand larvae, only a few will be able to find the first owner, and all the rest will die either from hunger or from predators. Likewise, of the several thousand larvae cast into the nymph of the first age, only a few will be fed on the next host. As a result, for one adult tick attached to a person or an animal, there are millions of his dead brethren who could not do it. Therefore, biologically so caused that if the tick stuck, then he himself detaches only after saturation, and force him to do it before impossible. He would rather die than miss a chance to get enough to the end.
It is for this reason that the methods for removing ticks by hot matches, oil or repellents are ineffective.Even being burned or gasping under a drop of oil, the tick will not let go of its victim.
If the tick is fed, it independently removes the gnathosome from the skin. What will happen next will depend on the type of parasite and the stage of development of the individual:
- U single and dwelling mites nymphs and larvae can remain on the body of the host, molt here, and after moving to the next age, stick to it again. This happens most often when parasitizing on cattle;
- Adult males of some species after detachment are sent to look for females stuck on the same host to copulate with them. Below the photo shows a lot of sucking ticks of different ages in the ear of the dog;
- In the three-host species, after each saturation, the larvae and nymphs fall away from the host, seek secluded shelter in the ground and under the stones, where molting and sometimes hibernate, and then go in search of new owners;
- Adult females of all kinds after saturation disappear and hide in random shelters on the ground. Here they wait for the full maturation of the eggs and lay them, after which they die.
Interestingly, if nymphs of all agesnutrition of the larvae and adult males contributes to the overall development of the organism, then in adult feeding females, the sexual system first fully matures, and after fertilization, the digestive system begins to degrade with a parallel development of a large number of eggs. In fact, after complete saturation and development, the adult female is a living sack of eggs, practically incapable of further life. It can still move a short distance to find shelter on the ground, but here, after laying eggs from it, only the oral organs and the shell of the idiosome are actually left.
Adult males do not live long after feeding either, but their life is a little more saturated. They are actively looking for females, fertilize them, can be fed several times. However, the fed adult males no longer survive the change of seasons and do not live to the next year.
Possible effects of ticks attack
Tick bites can lead to consequences that differ both in their external manifestations and in danger to the health and life of the victim.
If we talk about the bites in humans, then these consequences include:
- The normal temporary reaction to the bite is redness and slight itching after the tick is detached;
- Inflammation and suppuration of the wound, in which there was an accidental infection or a tick head left after its removal;
- An allergic reaction, usually limited to swelling, the spread of redness over the skin and a rash around the bite. Anaphylaxis in response to bites taiga and canine ticks not documented;
- Infection with dangerous tick-borne infections. In Russia and neighboring countries, such infections include tick-borne encephalitis virus and Lyme disease (borreliosis), in other countries ticks can carry pathogens of spotted fever and Q fever.
Pets are infected by ticks with piroplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, hepatozoa and other diseases. Wild animals and cattle on highly tacked pastures can die from exhaustion if too many ticks parasitize them.
If a tick is infected with an infection, the transmission of the pathogen begins almost immediately after cutting through the skin, when the parasite injects the first portion of saliva into the wound.The longer the tick feeds, the more infected saliva it transmits to the host and the greater the likelihood of subsequent infection.
Of the two most common tick-borne infections in Eurasia, encephalitis is considered much more dangerous than borreliosis, because there is no specific effective treatment against CE. Borreliosis, with timely diagnosis, is quickly and effectively treated with available antibiotics.
However, even in the most dangerous areas of tick-borne encephalitis, the frequency of infection with this disease does not exceed 0.24% of the total number of bites. That is, out of 10,000 tick bites, only 24 bitten tick-borne encephalitis develops.
Is it possible to understand by the appearance of a bite that an infection has occurred?
By the appearance of the tick it is impossible to determine is it infected with an infectionas well as by the bite itself it is impossible to understand whether the transmission of the pathogen occurred. Directly at the bite and immediately after it, tick-borne infections do not manifest themselves, therefore, they do not affect the appearance of the wound.
On a note
As noted above, in a few days a ring migrating erythema may appear,which is a sign of infection with borreliosis.
The first symptoms of encephalitis and borreliosis develop on average in 2-3 weeks, but sometimes incubation period may be different. Thus, borreliosis sometimes appears already 4-5 days after the bite, and in other cases the development of the infection is delayed for several weeks. Therefore, the bitten person needs to remember about the bite itself, so that when the first signs of the disease appear, immediately consult a doctor.
Some more photos
Tick stuck in the child’s ear:
And this photo shows signs of allergy to tick bites:
Tick removal by thread:
Interestingly, ixodid mites parasitize not only on warm-blooded animals, but also on reptiles:
What to do next
In most cases, the treatment of a bite with antiseptics is enough for the first aid to the bitten one. If the bite occurred in a region that is epidemiologically dangerous for tick-borne encephalitis, it is highly desirable to preserve the tick for analysis, as this will help to determine whether there is a risk of infection after the incident.
For this you need:
- Deliver the parasite to the laboratory, where it can be checked for tick-borne encephalitis virus infection.If the bite occurred in an unfavorable region of CE, the victim will receive emergency prophylaxis by administering immunoglobulin against tick-borne encephalitis, and in two weeks it will be necessary to additionally donate blood for analysis. This is all true if the victim does not have CE vaccinations;
- If it is impossible to deliver the tick to the laboratory, you need to carefully monitor the state of the bitten person for at least 4 weeks, remembering the date of the bite. When the slightest signs of the disease appear - fever, pain in the head, nervous system disorders - the bitten one must be immediately taken to the hospital for diagnosis and treatment.
On a note
As for domestic animals - the incubation period of piroplasmosis is on average 1-2 weeks, and if at this time the pet has signs of indisposition, it should be taken immediately to the veterinarian.
It is not necessary to drink any medication and start any treatment after a tick bite. None of the tick-borne infections can be treated at home. Prescribe and conduct such treatment only doctors.
Interesting video: what can a tick bite
Visual testing of tick protection products