Immune | September 23, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Depending on where you live in Australia, ticks can be a major concern for humans and our pets. Ticks are parasites that feed on animal and human blood. 70 species are found in Australia with the deadliest being the paralysis tick Ixodes holocyclus. Over 95% of tick bites in Eastern Australia are due to this species which may lead to tick-borne illnesses. Learn what you can do to protect yourself and your animals this tick season.
Ticks are external parasites which live and feed on the blood of mammals, birds and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. They are widely distributed around Australia, especially in warm, humid climates. Adults have ovoid-shaped bodies which enlarge when they become engorged with blood. Ticks have four stages to their lifecycle: egg, larva, nymph and adult.
There are two major groups of ticks: hard ticks and soft ticks:
Hard ticks have a flat plate on their body called a scutum. They have elongated mouthparts that are visible when viewed from above.
This group is the most important species that bite mammals.
Soft ticks have a softer, wrinkled body. Only a few species of this type are found in Australia and they rarely encounter humans.
Ticks are implicated in the transmission of several infections caused by pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and protozoa.
In Australia, the paralysis tick is the considered medically the most important. It injects neurotoxins into its host causing paralysis. Pets and livestock are most notably affected by tick paralysis. Humans mainly experience local irritation, allergy and transmitted infectious disease. Tick paralysis is possible but unlikely. Paralysis ticks are commonly found along a long stretch of Australia’s eastern coastline. However, other hot spots have popped up in more unlikely, inland locations. Two different species of paralysis ticks are found in South Australia and Tasmania.
Take your animal to the vet immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms or if you see a paralysis tick on or near your pet.
If a tick is removed quickly enough, all that is usually experienced is localised swelling and redness. Some people have more severe reactions such as tick paralysis and allergic reactions including anaphylactic shock.
Symptoms of tick paralysis include rash, flu-like symptoms, fever, tender lymph nodes, unsteady gait, intolerance to bright lights, increased weakness of the limbs and partial facial paralysis. Paralysis symptoms are more likely to affect children rather than adults.
Serious tick-borne diseases that occur in Australia include Queensland tick typhus and Flinders Island spotted fever. Whether exposure to Australian tick’s lead to Lyme Disease is a controversial area.
Recently a new syndrome called mammalian meat allergy can happen after a paralysis tick bite. When mammalian meats such as beef, pork, lamb, kangaroo, goat and venison are consumed, mild to life-threatening allergic reactions can occur.
The best way to avoid ticks is to steer clear of tick-infested areas. Ticks live in long grass, shrubs, leaf piles and trees. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants tucked into socks can prevent them from attaching to the skin. Wearing light-coloured clothes make it easier to spot a tick. Applying an insect repellent containing DEET to the skin or clothes can act as a deterrent. For a more natural approach, products containing tea tree oil can be applied in the same way. Tea tree oil is non-toxic and is also safe to use on animals. It can be used as a shampoo or simply diluted in water and sprayed onto the body, being careful to avoid the eye
After visiting tick-infested spots, remove clothing. If necessary, place in a hot dryer to kill any ticks. Check the entire body for ticks, particularly behind the ears, back of the neck and head. This is important for everyone, including adults, children and our pets.
Although, considered a more medical approach, tick collars, sprays and medications can help to control ticks in animals for up to 4 months.
If you suffer from allergic reactions, it may be necessary for a trained medical professional to remove the tick.
In non-allergic individuals use fine tipped forceps or tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upwards with steady pressure.
Avoid applying irritating substances, scratching the tick or squeezing.
There are also specialised tick removing products that can be used on humans and animals.
The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy recommends that you can kill an adult tick by spraying with a freezing product before removal. These products are readily available in pharmacies and are normally used in the treatment of warts and skin tags.
If an allergic response is encountered, natural therapies can be utilised to help reduce the symptoms. Anti-allergy herbs such as quercetin, albizia, perilla, baical skullcap and vitamin C may help to reduce local swelling and irritation.
Omega-3 and turmeric are natural herbal anti-inflammatories that decrease pain and inflammation.
A cold washer or ice-pack can be applied to the area during intervals throughout the day. If infection is a possibility tea tree or calendula cream can act as a natural antiseptic.
Van Nunen S. Tick-induced allergies: mammalian meat allergy, tick anaphylaxis and their significance. Asia Pac Allergy. 2015 Jan;5(1):3-16