Tick Bites – Symptoms, treatment & prevention

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Tick bites

Tick Bites – Symptoms, treatment & prevention

Ticks are parasites that feed on human and animal blood. A tick bite can cause an allergic reaction or serious illness but normally it is harmless.

Tick bites are common along the East Coast with 70 different sorts of ticks in Australia

The paralysis tick Ixodes holocyclus is the most common tick in Australia (also called a grass tick, seed tick or bush tick). The eggs grow into a larva that’s about 1mm long and brown and then after they develop into a nymph that is about 2mm long and pale brown in color. The adult paralysis tick is wrinkly, leathery and a grey-blue colour that is about 1cm long. Some have flat bodies and long mouths.

Tick’s need blood in order to grow and when feeding they inject a substance to stop the blood from clotting. Their saliva can be poisonous as well and can cause allergic reactions. In children it can cause tick paralysis and it is also possible to pass illnesses to humans.

They crawl up onto grass or twigs and drop onto animals or humans that are passing, attaching themselves to soft skin to feed on.


You will notice redness and swelling around the tick bite but will disappear when you remove the tick.

Symptoms of tick paralysis include:

  • A rash, sore glands and a paralysed face
  • Flu-like symptoms, headaches and fever
  • Walking unsteadily, weak limbs and pain in your joints
  • Would not be able to tolerate bright lights

Symptoms of allergies due to tick bites includes:

  • Swollen throat, difficulty breathing and even collapsing

What to do when bitten by a tick:

If you have an itch after being outdoors, you should not scratch it. Look at the area first, you might see a black dot, as ticks that are in the larvae or nymph stages are very small.

You don’t need to see a doctor, unless you are allergic to ticks and they need to remove it. Do not scratch, squeeze or pick at tick’s, you should remove it quickly and safely and afterwards you need to monitor for symptoms of tick-related illnesses. The symptoms can develop or become worse when you remove the tick as it might have injected saliva into you.

You should go to the nearest emergency department with your emergency adrenaline autoinjector on hand.

Mammalian meat allergy occurs after a tick bite when you develop an allergy to meat and other products containing gelatin. An allergist or immunologist would need to diagnose these allergies and if you have allergies you should not eat meats or products containing gelatin.

Removing a tick:

First kill it by spraying products containing ether onto it, like Wart-Off Freeze, Aerostart or Elastoplast Cold Spray. Hold the spray 1cm above the tick and spray the tick 5 times until it drops of after 5 minutes

Use a magnifying glass to see if the tick is still moving its legs. If it is not dead or you don’t have a magnifying glass, spray the tick again 5 times.

Don’t use tweezers to pull the tick out. Do not use a tweezer to pull on the tick if it doesn’t drop off, for safely removed see a health practitioner.

Products like methylated spirits, petroleum jelly, nail polish, oil or alcohol should not be used to kill ticks, and do not use a match that is lighted to burn the tick. These are no options and don’t work, it might cause more damage as the tick might want to go deeper into your skin.

You should see a doctor when you have signs of an infection, such as:

  • Constant pain, swelling and redness
  • Red marks leading from the area or even fever

Other illnesses like rickettsia infections, Queensland tick typhus, Flinders Island spotted fever and possibly Lyme disease or Lyme disease-like conditions can also be caused by tick bites.

Preventative tips:

  • Keep your skin covered by wearing long-sleeved shirts, a wide sun-hat and tuck your trousers into your socks.
  • After rain you should avoid long grass and bushes.
  • Insect repellent that contains DEET or picaridin should be used.
  • Put insecticide onto your clothes that contains permethrin
  • When you go inside, check your skin, clothes and shoes for tick’s and if any of your clothes put it in the dryer for 20minutes to kill the tick’s.


Further Reading

Are you battling ticks?

Don’t get TICKED this summer