In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of mints, mainly due to the state of abandonment of the countryside, with uncultivated meadows and woods left to themselves.
This situation has been aggravated by the presence of fallow deer and wild boar, on which ticks parasitize.
The result is that, during a walk in the countryside, it is not uncommon to be bitten by a tick. The latter, in fact, tend to live in tall grass and bushes, preferring wooded or low mountain environments, better if slightly humid.
Unlike what has always been believed, ticks do not jump or fly but need direct contact with the host and are particularly active in the warm months, when they awaken from their winter hibernation.
Positioned at the end of the plant or on a blade of grass, they await the passage of the “guest” and stick to it (just touch them). At this point, they pierce the skin through the rostrum (mouth) on the head.
The tick bite is often not felt as a slightly anesthetic substance is emitted at the same time.
The tick begins to suck blood until it is full and detaches from the host.
The problem with ticks is that they can be carriers of infectious diseases, coming into direct contact with the host’s blood, so it is necessary to remove them precisely and as soon as possible.
In this article, we will therefore see how to behave following the sting – or bite – of a tick.
Puncture (bite) of a tick: how to behave. Is it dangerous?
The tick is a parasite which, as we have seen, must feed on the host’s blood to ensure its survival. They are not insects but arthropods and belong to the arachnid family (spiders, mites…).
In the world there are almost 1000 different species of ticks, 36 of which in Italy. The most relevant from a health point of view are the wood tick and the dog tick.
The infectious diseases carried by ticks which, according to the Istituto Superiore della Sanità, have epidemiological relevance in Italy are mainly Lyme disease, tick-borne encephalitis and meningoencephalitis, rickettsiosis.
Although the problem should not be underestimated, it is also fair to specify that the chances of facing serious demonstrations, especially in our country, are really small.
The risk of contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite, for example, is just over 1%.
How to remove a tick
Having therefore clarified that the tick bite in itself is not dangerous, should you discover that you have one on you, you must remove it as soon as possible because the longer the tick remains inside the host, the higher the percentage of contracting a tick could be. ‘infection.
But how to remove a tick?
If you’ve never done it, know that it’s really nonsense and you don’t need any special tools of the trade, just a simple eyebrow tweezer with a thin tip.
Then proceed as follows:
☛ Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible to be sure of pulling out the rostrum. The tweezers must be dry and not soaked in alcohol or other disinfectant solutions;
☛ tear off the tick with a decisive movement, giving a slight rotation in order to “release” the hook with which the tick is anchored to the skin.
Do not try to tear the tick with your fingers because the risk is to compress the body with the consequent leakage of potentially infected material.
Once the tick has been removed, the skin can be disinfected with a common commercially available disinfectant (hydrogen peroxide, bialcohol, citrosyl..).
A slight redness, swelling or itching may remain and in this case you can proceed with the application of a local cream based on calendula, antihistamine or, in the most annoying cases, cortisone.
In the rare case instead of the appearance of pain, redness that increases, or even fever, it is necessary to consult the doctor who will be able to evaluate the assumption of antibiotic therapy.
The method of extracting a tick is the same whether it is an adult, a child or a dog.
What if, after extracting the tick, a piece of it remains in the skin?
The part that could remain stuck in the skin is the rostrum which, by itself, is no longer able to transmit diseases but which however could give rise to inflammation locally. In this case, it can be removed using a disinfected needle, as you would if there were a thorn.
Can a tick bite be prevented?
Not entirely as there are repellents (permethrin and DEET) on the market with dubious effectiveness. However, there are some strategies that can be adopted to reduce the probability of a sting or to quickly realize if we have been stung, and they are:
☛ cover the extremities with a long-sleeved shirt, trousers and high boots;
☛ avoid going into tall grass if possible;
☛ wear light clothing as the tick, which is dark in colour, is a few millimeters large but can be easily identified even with the naked eye;
☛ at the end of the excursion, undress quickly and throw everything in the washing machine (wash at at least 60° otherwise it won’t die).
Finally, carefully check the points where the tick tends to settle most, which are the arms, legs, trunk, and interdigital spaces. Also check the back of the neck, although it is rare for the tick to settle in that area.
Small annotation: this article is developed on the basis of my personal experience and as a pharmacist. If in doubt, always consult your general practitioner.