Ticks and mites, itches and fevers

Ticks, ‘scrub itch’ and the illnesses that go with them are known hazards of life in North Queensland, especially for people who spend time in the bush as farmers or bushwalkers. I have wanted to write about them for years but the subject is complicated and I have only recently found time to sort it all out to my own satisfaction.

Here we go, then – but first a disclaimer: my information is the best I can offer but I’m not a health professional. If you’re sick and suspect ticks or mites, please see a doctor. Tell them where you have been, too, as it will probably help their diagnosis.

In brief:
  • Ticks and mites are arachnids. They are not insects but related to spiders.
  • All of them need a blood meal at some stage of their life cycle, and many of them will take human blood instead of their usual fare (i.e., the blood of marsupials, rats, cattle, dogs, etc).
  • Some of their bites provoke an allergic reaction.
  • Some of them inject poisons (toxins) in their saliva as they feed.
  • Some of them inject bacteria (Rickettsia family or others) which can make us very sick with typhus or other diseases. Antibiotics normally clear up these illnesses quite well, if we act quickly enough.
  • Ticks should be removed as quickly as possible when discovered but (importantly) without squeezing their bodies.

Each of these points will now become a longer section, in the same order. Scroll straight to the bottom if you simply want to remove a tick safely.     Continue reading “Ticks and mites, itches and fevers”