DEALING WITH TICKS
While Australian ticks are nowhere near the scourge they are in the United States, there are still 70 different species of ticks throughout Australia, and 16 of these species feed on human blood. Usually, a tick bite will cause a little bit of irritation and nothing more, but in rare instances, they can cause some nasty side effects.
THE PARALYSIS TICK
The tick we have to be most concerned about is the aptly named Paralysis Tick (Ixodes holocyclus). This tiny critter is found up and down Australia’s Eastern coast. They are brown and sit around 4-5mm in length.
If these things latch on for a short period of time, they are usually harmless. But when they feed off you for a long time, they can spread pathogens and infection, or cause a severe allergic reaction. In some cases, they can cause tick paralysis. It is not necessarily as daunting as it sounds.
Tick paralysis symptoms include a headache, fever, weakness, intolerance to bright light and some facial paralysis. They are more of a concern to your cat or dog than to you. In pets, the symptoms are much more severe. Every year around 20,000 domestic animals are paralysed as a result of tick bites. So, it pays to check them thoroughly after each walk.
The Department of Health has more information.
CHECKING FOR TICKS
Checking yourself and your animal for ticks should be a priority after any visit to the bush. They like warm, damp places, to under the arms, in the groin, behind the ears, under the breasts, in the seams of your clothes, behind your knees, even in your belly button. If you have them on your clothes, a wash at a high heat for around 30 minutes will kill them.
Checking your animal involves a similar procedure. Run your hands through its fur and check for any abnormal hard lumps you find. They particularly like the area around the neck and collar and under the arms.
REMOVING A TICK
The problem with removing ticks is that when you grab them or scratch them to remove them from the surface of the skin, the disturbance usually causes them to release more saliva. This is particularly dangerous if you have a tick allergy.
Use fine-tipped forceps rather than simple household tweezers where possible. You need something with a fine point to be as accurate as possible when removing the tick. Try and grip the tick as close to the skin as possible, as well. Once you have a sturdy grip, pull the tick upwards. You don’t want to twist the tick as the mouth may break off and remain embedded in the skin. Pulling directly upwards will ensure you remove the tick in one motion. If you still cannot remove the tick, you probably want to consult a doctor.
After you remove the tick from your, or your animal’s skin, pay extra attention to symptoms over the coming days. With pets, you might notice a loss of appetite, drowsiness, coughing, vomiting, weakness or altered breathing patterns and vocal noises. If your pet displays any of these symptoms after finding a tick, you should take it to a vet immediately.
Similarly, if you display any of the human symptoms, such as feverishness, a headache, joint and muscle ache, sensitivity to light or a sore throat, you should pay your doctor a visit.
Ticks can be a nuisance, but with proper detection, removal and aftercare, they don’t need to spoil your trip to the outback and enjoying the great outdoors.
Do you have anything to add? Have you any experience dealing with ticks? Please share your thoughts below.