Australian paralysis ticks are little parasites that prey on humans, dogs, cats, animals, and even livestock. Their name is derived from the neurotoxin they inject during feeding, which, in large amounts, can paralyse the host.
Despite the fact that Australia is home to more than 75 different species of ticks, 16 of which are known to prey on humans, more than 95% of human tick bites along Australia’s eastern coast are caused by this species.
What exactly are paralysis ticks, then? What should you do if you or someone you know is bitten by one, and are they dangerous to humans?
The parasitic arachnid species known as paralysis ticks and scientifically known as Ixodes holocyclus, feeds on the blood of mammals. Despite being regarded as bugs, they are actually more closely related to spiders than to other insects. By making a tiny puncture in their host’s skin, they may squeeze their head down into the hole and latch on with a unique barbed feeding tube. They then consume the blood that seeps into the hole.
A mature tick can consume hundreds of times as much blood as it weighs, which causes their bodies to expand to multiples of their original size. When a tick has finished feeding and is ready to drop off, it is said to be engorged.
As they feed, paralysis ticks inject a range of toxins into the host, including chemicals that disrupt the body’s natural healing processes (so it can continue drinking for days at a time).
Australian native animals like bandicoots, echidnas, and possums, which have mostly evolved to be immune to the paralysis toxin, are the traditional prey of paralysis ticks. Although they are not selective, paralysis ticks typically feed on domesticated animals and livestock, where their toxin is far more potent. Additionally, they are fairly willing to feed on people.
A Tick Does Not Chase You
Contrary to popular opinion, paralysis ticks do not jump a long way to capture a host. The more common method is for them to climb out onto the furthest point of leaves or branches, grab on with their back legs, and hold out their front limbs while they wait for a large mammal to brush past so the tick may attach.
They occasionally drop onto creatures that are moving beneath them. Additionally, because of their small size, they frequently latch on and begin feeding before the host ever notices them.
What Does The Appearance Of A Tick Look Like?
Once they emerge from the egg, paralysis ticks go through three unique life stages, all of which range greatly in size, though their overall appearance remains largely the same. The ticks have bodies that resemble seeds and have legs that stick out from the narrow end. Their bodies are often light grey, yellowish, or brown in colour, with brownish legs.
Size Of A Tick
The ticks are known as larva when they first emerge from their eggs. They are typically practically unnoticeable to the unaided eye and are only around the size of a pinprick or about half a millimetre across. They only have six legs now, but counting them would probably require a magnifying lens. Once they have consumed the host mammal, they will enlarge to an enormous size, developing round and oval-shaped bodies before unlatching and falling off.
Life Cycle Of A Tick
Once a tick has fed on a host and dropped off again, it might develop into a nymph, which is the “teenage” stage of the tick lifecycle. Nymphs are about the size and shape of a sesame seed, and they now have an additional pair of legs, giving them an exact total of eight. Again, upon feeding, they will enlarge several times more.
The tick will mature into an adult after its second feeding cycle, when its body will be around the size of a watermelon seed. At this size, you can frequently notice that their middle pairs are whiter, whereas their front and back legs are dark brown.
Only the females need to be worried about once they reach adulthood since they require one more meal from a host before they can reproduce (the males will feed from the female). An adult Paralysis tick will enlarge significantly while feeding, going from the size of a watermelon seed to that of a red kidney bean with small legs on one end.
Should You Be Afraid Of Ticks?
Yes! The paralysis tick poses two main dangers to people.
- The possibility of anaphylaxis, the most severe type of allergic reaction, which is frequently triggered by insect and spider bites and stings, is the other concern associated with tick bites. The concern in this situation is that if the person is unaware of the tick, they may be experiencing an allergic reaction without being aware of the reason or being able to treat it.
Although the paralysis toxin rarely poses a threat to humans, certain individuals are more vulnerable than others. If a person is very young or has been bitten by several ticks, it might be especially harmful.
- Because of their eating patterns, ticks are a common source of disease transmission, which is a secondary problem. Although Lyme disease is uncommon in Australia, it is the most well-known example of this. Naturally, paralysis ticks can also carry other diseases transmitted by ticks, such as Rickettsial Spotted Fever.
Tick Bite Symptoms In Animals
Animals, including dogs, cats, and livestock, are frequently the ones who suffer the most severe effects from paralysis tick attacks. Heavy breathing, excessive salivation, coughing, vomiting, trembling in the back legs, and even falling and lying motionless are all signs of paralysis and tick venom poisoning.
These signs should prompt you to take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible because they may strongly suggest that your pet has a tick attached someplace (which can be very difficult to see among the fur). Animals die from paralysis tick bites much more frequently than people do.
Tick Bite Symptoms in Humans
Although humans often have greater resistance to paralysis tick bites than animals, they are nonetheless vulnerable to harmful consequences. This is especially true if they have been feeding unnoticed for a while. Paralysis ticks feed for several days before they ultimately become engorged and die.
The most typical symptom is redness and swelling in the bite area. Rashes, headaches, fever, and other flu-like symptoms are also frequent symptoms, as are painful lymph nodes, dizziness, light sensitivity, and, in extreme cases, even partial facial paralysis.
Tick Removal Australia – What To Do In Case Of A Tick Bite?
The most important thing to do if you or someone close to you finds a tick on their body is to get it off as soon as possible; however, doing so requires some caution.
The tick should never be squeezed or popped because doing so dramatically increases the risk of infection and sickness and may leave the tick’s body partially lodged in the skin.
Additionally, the tick shouldn’t be “encouraged to go” by using chemicals or heat, similar to what one may do to a leech by applying salt or a lighted cigarette. Killing them or removing them gently but firmly is the intention here. You can perform this action better if you carry the appropriate knowledge and the right skills.
Apply bicarbonate of soda dampened with water to kill them, or spray at them with an insect repellent containing pyrethrin. To ensure the tick is killed, use the chosen cure at least twice in a minute. Within 24 hours, it ought to naturally diminish.
The other tick removal tool is to use tweezers with a fine point. Grab the tick as close to the head as you can, and then draw it straight back along the line it entered the wound, using firm, consistent force. Avoid twisting or grabbing the tick by the body because you can tear off the mouthparts and leave them in the wound, increasing the risk of infection.
However, it’s usually best to either leave it alone and allow your body to heal itself or visit a doctor if the head or a portion of the mouth does get stuck in the wound. Getting rid of the residual pieces by yourself could prove to be very challenging.
How Can You Be Safe From A Tick Bite
Despite the fact that most paralysis tick bites are fairly harmless, there is a genuine chance of infection and allergic reactions. Spending a day receiving a professional first aid course is one of the best ways to prepare for situations like this and various other medical crisis.
Be prepared when the time comes rather than frantically searching for solutions when a friend or loved one is in danger.
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