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Are Ticks Dangerous?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Ticks can most certainly be dangerous to people, especially babies, along with animals such as cats and dogs. Like many other bloodsucking parasites, ticks can spread diseases between their victims, and some of these diseases can be very serious. For this reason, it's important to try and avoid tick bites, and to carefully remove and preserve the bugs in the event that someone is bitten, so that the best possible treatment can be provided.

Hundreds of tick species can be found worldwide, although only a handful of these are known to carry diseases which can be dangerous. They typically live in scrubby and woody areas, leaping to warm blooded mammals to feed on their blood. Most bites happen while people are camping, hiking, working in the woods, or working in the yard.

Initially, a bite typically causes irritation and inflammation which can lead to itching. Some people experience allergies, caused by sensitization to certain proteins associated with ticks, and they may experience a variety of symptoms from outbreaks of rashes to difficulty breathing. The bites also have the potential to become infected, just like any other kind of injury which breaches the skin, and if parts of the tick are left inside the bite, these can fester and promote infection as well, even if the bite is well cared for.

Lyme disease, caused by a bacterial infection, is probably one of the most famous medical conditions associated with these critters. However, they can also cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, anaplasmosis, tularemia, Ehrlichiosis, powassan, Babesiosis, and the tick-borne encephalitis virus. These diseases can cause a variety of symptoms and medical problems, and in some regions of the world, they are endemic in the local population, which makes bites especially dangerous in these areas.

If someone is bitten by a tick, the bug should be carefully removed with tweezers to ensure that the parasite and its mouth parts are completely removed. People who are not comfortable doing this can ask a doctor for help. The body should be preserved in a small container or bag in case the bite becomes inflamed or symptoms suggesting infection appear, so that the body can be inspected under a microscope. Bites should be cleansed with warm water and soap, and it's important to keep an eye on the bite for any signs of irritation or inflammation, and to seek treatment properly.

Bites can be prevented by utilizing topical sprays which repel the bugs, and by wearing thick, heavy garments which fully cover the body, making it hard for ticks to latch on. Clothing and hair should be thoroughly shaken and brushed out after trips into the woods to remove the parasites, and animals should also be regularly checked for signs of bites. These parasites are especially found of warm, dark folds of skin such as the armpits and elbows, making it critical to examine these areas with care.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon336179 — On May 26, 2013

I agree. I hate this things! Just today we found quite a few on ourselves, the rug and the dog. If only I could get rid of them for good.

By tlcJPC — On May 12, 2011

My dad was actually unfortunate enough to get Rocky Mountain spotted fever from a tick bite – twice – in one summer.

He was incredibly ill for quite a while both times, and was even hospitalized once for a week.

He knew he had had a tick bite (he thought maybe a wood tick, but wasn't sure), because he found the little bugger after he mowed the lawn. However, it never occurred to him a week later that that was why he was so incredibly sick.

By poppyseed — On May 11, 2011

@Mykol – That’s right. I live in an area where ticks are quite common. Whenever we go to work in the yard or even if we just go for a walk through the woods near our home, we make sure that we do a thorough tick check.

They can get a grip on your skin anywhere, so don’t just check in places that are uncovered from clothing. Those suckers can crawl, and we have found them in some of the strangest places!

So, if you know that you are going to be heading through an area that’s tick infested, wear pants and long sleeves. Try to tuck your pants down in your boots or your socks, but always check those hidden places as well as the ones that are exposed.

By myharley — On May 11, 2011

@andee - I agree that ticks are not fun to deal with and they can be very dangerous to humans and animals. I have a good friend who became very sick from a lyme disease tick. She had to have several weeks of antibiotic treatment, and it took them a while before they even figured out why she was having so many problems.

One thing I do after removing or killing ticks is I drown them in water and don't just throw on the ground. That way I know they are dead, and will not crawl around to attach themselves to something else.

By andee — On May 11, 2011

We like to go trail riding on our horses, and our dog always comes along! When we are done riding through the timber, I always check my hair and body for ticks. I then run my hands all over my dog to check for dog ticks.

Sometimes they are easy to find, as they have already filled up with blood, but other times you will see them just crawling around. I continue to check her body and ears even a few days later to make sure I have gotten all of them.

They are not fun to deal with, but I have not found a tick repellent that really works if you spend much time outside in heavy timber or a lot of grass.

By Mykol — On May 11, 2011

I hate ticks, but live in an area where I find them every year - either on myself or on my dogs. When I do a tick removal I always make sure I do not leave the head inside the skin. If you just pull it off, it can be very easy to do.

If you wash the area where you removed the tick, you will be able to see if you got the whole thing out of there.

Spring always seems to be the worst time of year for ticks and if we have a rainy year, there seems to be even more of them. Always do a thorough check if you have spent time outside in the grass or woods.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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