Paralysis tick

Bites that cause serious allergic reactions

The paralysis tick (lat. Ixodes holocyclus) is the most known pest in Australia when it comes to ticks. They have an oval shape and a light brown or grey colour when hungry. They are known as “hard ticks” but also have several other frequently used names which depend on their growth stage. These names include grass tick, seed tick and bush tick.


Paralysis tick can be easily found in native bushland and rainforests in eastern parts of Australia. Ticks usually lay their eggs under moist leaves from which larvae hatch after approximately two months. In order to advance to the next development stage, larvae need to have a blood meal. During its search for a meal, larvae enters in a so-called “quest” stage. In this stage, the larvae climb to the top of the plants and waves their legs around, hoping to come to contact with the animal passing nearby. This stage occurs every time when there is a need for blood and ticks usually climb around 50 cm up the plant. Once they land on their prey, the larvae will spend 4 to 6 days feeding after which it will leave the host and advance into a nymphal stage. Nymphs need to find another host and have a blood meal before they can advance into adult stage. Both female and male ticks need to find the host but for different purposes. While female needs a blood meal, the male searches the host for female ticks so he can mate. Only on rare occasions do male ticks feed on the host’s blood. Once it reaches the adult stage, the female tick will feed for about 10 days after which it will leave the host in order to drop the eggs on the ground. After laying eggs for several weeks, the female tick will die. The whole lifetime of the tick usually lasts for a year and their most active months are in the spring and summer.

Paralysis Tick

Paralysis Tick

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Public health

Paralysis tick has a bite that can cause serious allergic reactions and severe conditions because of the toxins it contains as well as the microorganisms that it transfers. One specifically dangerous microorganism that is carried by the tick can cause fever rickettsia.

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However, most common medical issue related to ticks are the allergic reactions. They can vary from just a little itch and localized swelling to widespread swelling accompanied with pain. These reactions can even be life threatening as they can result in an anaphylactic condition. Allergic reactions that are related to ticks are not like the other ticks-related medical issues mostly because they can happen as a response to a paralysis tick in its every growth stage. People that are known to allergically react to ticks must always avoid areas that are known to be infested with ticks. Tick paralysis is very common in children that have become a host to a female tick. The symptoms include weakness in the limbs, rashes, headaches, fevers, tender lymph nodes and facial paralysis. The paralysis progresses over time as the tick fills with more and more blood and the infected person might even die because of breathing issues. Even if the tick is removed, the person’s condition will deteriorate over time and the recovery will be very slow. Often, if the person removes a tick from their body, it is good to do a thorough check just in case if there are more attached ticks. New discoveries and improvements in medicine have resulted in a production of tick antitoxin which stopped further deaths in the last 50 years. Still, each year there are at least a few cases of children with tick paralysis and ticks take their toll on pets each year, especially during summer months.

First aid

Ticks can travel over our bodies for two full hours before they finally find a place to attach themselves. The best way to deal with a tick that has attached itself onto your body is by using a pair of forceps, hold the tick as close as possible to the skin´s surface and pull it out. Still, this method is not often done correctly and in some cases it can cause the tick to release even more toxin into the body. Dr. Bernie Stone who is the world’s leading researcher on the toxin of the paralysis tick strongly suggests that at tick should be treated with an insecticide permethrin and left to die. Once it is dead, it will fall of the skin after 24 hours. If not, it can be removed gently with forceps. Its bite will still be itchy for couple of weeks and if other symptoms remain, you should contact a doctor immediately. Many people are worried about its mouthparts being left in the skin. If a tick is removed by force, the mouthparts will almost always break off and some part will remain in the skin. However, this should not concern you because the saliva glands are located in the body and the broken mouthparts will come out over time.

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How to protect yourself?

  1. There are four key elements in protecting yourself from paralysis tick:

  2. Avoid places that are known paralysis tick habitats

  3. Use a personal repellent that has DEET

  4. Wear long pants that are tucked into socks and cover up your body

  5. If you find a tick attached to your body, deal with it quickly.

Paralysis Tick on Skin

Paralysis Tick on Skin

Repellents, especially those that contain DEET can reduce or even stop tick bites. Picaridin, also a synthetic repellent, can also be very useful when dealing with ticks. Botanical repellents are not able to provide the same protection level as synthetic ones. In places where ticks are very common, people should wear clothing of light colouring so ticks can be easy to spot and remove. Trousers should be tucked into socks and shirts into pants so minimum skin is exposed. When returning from places that are infested with ticks, you should put all clothes in a hot dryer for at least half an hour so all ticks are killed. Search your body for ticks and put your focus in places such as the ears and back of your head. Search children and pets for ticks when returning tick-infested places.

Pest management

There are multiple ways to reduce population of ticks in areas where people come to contact with them, such as their backyard. These types of ticks are unable to live in dry conditions and efforts to decrease the amount of moisture in the soil can reduce their impact. This can be achieved by cutting the foliage and shrub layers to enable sunlight to reach the ground. Other ways to do this is to reduce watering and mulching, as well as making sure that the lawn is regularly mown. If nothing of the above proves to be effective, insecticide should be the next step. Bifentrin is the only registered insecticide for paralysis tick control.

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