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Tackling Ticks Down Under: A Guide to Understanding, Identifying, and Treating Ticks in Australia

    Ticks in Australia - First Aid
    Ticks, those tiny arachnids with a knack for attaching themselves to unsuspecting hosts, are a common concern in many parts of the world. In Australia, where diverse ecosystems abound, various tick species pose challenges to both humans and animals. In this blog, we will explore what ticks are, delve into the different varieties found in Australia, and discuss the best treatments for tick bites in the land down under.

     

    Understanding Ticks: What are they?

    Ticks are blood-feeding parasites that belong to the arachnid family, which also includes spiders and scorpions. They have a specialised mouthpart designed for anchoring onto their hosts and feeding on blood. Ticks are commonly found in grassy and wooded areas, and they can attach themselves to humans and animals alike.

    Different Varieties of Ticks in Australia

    Australia is home to several tick species, each with its own characteristics and distribution.
    Some of the most notable tick varieties in Australia include:

    • Paralysis Tick (Ixodes holocyclus): Found along the east coast of Australia, the paralysis tick is notorious for causing paralysis in its hosts, including pets and livestock. Prompt removal is crucial if bitten. This tick is capable of causing a severe allergic reaction, including Tick Anaphylaxis and MMA.
    • Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus): As the name suggests, this tick species is often associated with dogs but can infest homes and kennels. It is widely distributed across the country.
    • Bush Tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis): Prevalent in rural and bushland areas, the bush tick can infest a variety of hosts, including native wildlife, livestock and pets.
    • Cattle Tick (Rhipicephalus microplus): A significant concern for the livestock industry, the cattle tick infests cattle and can transmit various diseases.

    Best Treatment for Tick Bites in Australia

    Timely and proper treatment is essential when dealing with tick bites to minimise the risk of complications.
    Here are some recommended approaches:

    Tick Removal: The only acceptable way to remove ticks is Australia is with the use of ice or ether (ice) spray.

    1. Take the ether containing spray and place it about 1cm above the tick.
    2. Using the ether containing spray, spray the tick 5 times.
    3. After a few minutes, if you have a magnifying glass, check if the tick is still moving its legs.
    4. If the tick has stopped moving, it is dead. You can use a specialised tick removal tool to then remove the tick from the skin.
    5. Thoroughly clean the bite area, and your hands, with rubbing alcohol, an antiseptic, or soap and water.
    6. Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect you have been bitten by a paralysis tick or experience symptoms such as weakness or difficulty breathing. These ticks can cause severe reactions and require prompt intervention.

    NOTE: DO NOT use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick while it is still alive. Doing this will increase the likelihood and chances of the fluid from the tick being injected or forced into the skin. Some studies show ticks can carry Lyme disease, an infection whose symptoms can include fever, headache, fatigue, sore muscles and joints.

    Tick Prevention for Pets: Use tick prevention products recommended by veterinarians for pets, especially in areas prone to tick infestations. Regularly check pets for ticks, particularly in and around their ears, neck and between toes.

    Protective Clothing: When venturing into tick-prone areas, wear long sleeves, pants and closed shoes to minimise exposure. Tuck pants into socks for added protection.

    Environmental Management: Keep lawns and outdoor spaces well-maintained to reduce tick habitats. Consider professional pest control measures if tick infestations are persistent.

    Mammallan Meat Allergy (MMA)

    Just when you thought ticks were bad enough for all of us that enjoy the great Australian outdoor lifestyle, along comes the Mammallan Meat Allergy or simply MMA. Australia currently has the highest rate of MMA and tick anaphylaxis (TA), worldwide.

    So what is MMA?

    Basically, it is an anaphylactic reaction in humans to red meat brought about by the bite of a tick and the incorrect removal of said tick. The Catalyst Program on the ABC did a story that explains the phenomena of MMA so well that the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA), the peak clinical body that oversees anaphylaxis training in Australia, uses their story in their own training programs. View the catalyst story here and judge for yourself.

    In conclusion, ticks in Australia pose unique challenges due to the diversity of species and their potential impact on both humans and animals. By understanding the varieties of ticks, adopting preventive measures, and knowing how to properly handle tick bites, individuals can navigate the Australian outdoors more safely. If in doubt or faced with a severe reaction, it’s always advisable to seek professional medical advice promptly.

     

    Don’t forget to visit our Blog page for more articles on other interesting topics.

    If you’re looking to stay educated about ticks and further your training, take a look at our first aid courses here, where you’ll find many courses that cover this important topic.

     

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