Tick bite causes
A climber is admitted with a very possible meningitis. The cause: a tick bite. These dangerous arachnids, so common on track feet, trails through meadows, gullies… lurk to hook on the skin, plunge their head into it and suck out the blood. Worst of all, they transmit diseases, in some cases very serious. Don’t be careless, they’ve just started their season.
A climber detected last week that a tick had hooked his leg after a day on the mountain. The parasite had probably not been there for more than 24 hours. With a little cologne, he easily detached it and did not give the event any more importance, but after a few hours, his fever started to rise alarmingly and he was suffering from severe headaches. He immediately went to the emergency room and was hospitalized.
The diagnosis, in the absence of any evidence yet, is a more than probable meningitis caused by the toxin that the arachnid inoculated into the climber’s blood.
Ticks are responsible for some cases of button fever and for dangerous Lyme disease in others.
Prevention and treatment of dangerous tick bites
Ticks are arachnids that parasitize mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Worldwide, only mosquitoes transmit diseases to people more often than ticks do.
The juvenile forms live in the grass until they adhere firmly to an animal’s skin, feeding on its blood and thus developing a prominent abdomen on successive days.
More than their attachment to the skin, ticks are fearsome because many (approximately 20%) are parasitized by bacteria called rickettsiae, which can transmit diseases, most notably Mediterranean button fever.
Symptoms and Signs
Mediterranean button fever is endemic in the countries of the Mediterranean basin and is transmitted by the dog tick. It appears mainly in the summer season, with a maximum incidence during the month of August, coinciding with the biological cycle of the tick, which infests the dog from the beginning of summer.
The incubation period varies between 4 and 20 days, a small pustule appears that after a few days transforms into the black spot.
The incubation period ranges from 4 to 20 days. The tick bite often goes unnoticed. The inoculation lesion is painless and can be multiple; it is usually located in covered and flexed areas (axilla, groin, interdigital area, pubis, behind the ear, scalp, submammary area, hollow behind the knee…), which makes it difficult to detect.
In children it predominates in the head, and in adults in the extremities. Initially it is a small pustule that after a few days becomes the characteristic black spot of the disease, and consists of an ulcerous lesion covered by a black eschar surrounded by a reddish halo. This black spot is found in 75% of patients, persists throughout the feverish period and may be accompanied by regional nodes.
The clinical manifestations are abruptly established with high fever, headache, mental torpor, photophobia, intense involvement of the general state and muscle and joint pain, especially in the lower extremities. In 9% of cases there may be bilateral conjunctivitis. 3/5 days after the onset of the fever, a rash appears, usually affecting the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. One third of the patients present vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal pain.
It is usually a benign disease, but 7.5% may have severe organ involvement (renal, respiratory, neurological, cardiac or liver) and, although mortality is generally nil, lethal cases have been described in up to 2.5% of patients, mostly in the elderly, with health problems or in patients where treatment was delayed more than seven days from the onset of fever.
Sometimes, ticks don’t sink into the skin until hours after the first contact, so they are easy to remove, but once they are sunk into the skin, which they do completely painlessly, it is already more difficult.
It is advisable to check your skin and clothing periodically if you are in tick-infested areas. At the end of the day’s activity, we should check the whole body.
It is not recommended to bring a hot match, petroleum jelly, liquid soap, oil, gasoline, or nail polish near the tick
It is currently not recommended to bring a hot match, or petroleum jelly, liquid soap, oil, gasoline or nail polish close to the tick, as this prolongs the time of exposure and also the tick responds to irritation by injecting the infectious organisms. Sometimes, the tick breaks off by bringing a tick-proof dog collar close to it.
Fine point tweezers and gloves are used, as handling ticks without gloves could result in infection through cracks in the skin.
Grasp the tick perpendicular to its axis, and pull up gently and firmly to remove it
The tick is picked up as close to the surface of the skin as possible and pulled up gently and firmly to be removed. Grasp the tick perpendicular to its axis. If it is grasped along its axis, it could become a kind of syringe and spill all its germs. It should not be twisted or shaken. If you pull slowly and hard, it is almost impossible to remove the tick’s head. Sometimes a small piece of skin is shed when the tick is removed, which usually indicates that it has been done correctly. The tick should not be burst so that its remains do not contaminate either the affected person or the person helping him.
The skin is then disinfected with soap and water or iodine and covered with a band-aid. The tweezers should be disinfected after use.
A very itchy blackish nodule may form at the site of the bite and may persist for several years.
A doctor should be consulted for follow-up of the lesion. Except in certain cases, there is no evidence of the usefulness of chemoprophylaxis after a tick bite. Mediterranean button fever is treated with specific antibiotics.
The most effective tick repellents are those containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide)
If we are going to be exposed to places where we know there are ticks, we can avoid their bite by following these tips:
- Wear long pants (including tucking the inside of your socks or taping them shut), long socks and long-sleeved shirts inside your pants.
- Wear light-colored clothing to detect the tick early.
- Avoid going off the trails and not being in contact with dense vegetation.
- Avoid sitting directly on the ground; use a blanket or towel.
- Use an appropriate repellent. The most effective against ticks are those containing (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), an ingredient used to repel mosquitoes and other insects as well, and which can be applied directly to the skin. It is important to calculate the hours of protection it will provide.