Under normal circumstances flea and tick bites are more bothersome than troublesome; the majority of victims (both human and pet) exhibit only minor discomfort with no lasting effects. But for those with allergies or who have come into contact with a tick that is carrying a disease, the consequences of even one bite can be far more complicated. Knowing what to look for will help you know when a bite is treatable at home and when it's time to consult a physician.
Flea bites first appear about a half hour after the actual bite and typically on, though not limited to, the feet and ankles. The bite will present as a small raised bump with a single bite mark in the centre. Bites on people or animals with sensitivity to fleas might exhibit a red bump surrounded by a reddened halo. Because a single flea is capable of biting up to 400 times, the bites will usually occur as a few bites close together or in clusters.
Signs of Trouble from a Flea Bite
Some dogs develop flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), which will result in excessive itching and scratching that can lead to open sores and hair loss. Secondary infections from severe scratching can also occur. In people who are sensitive to insect bites, flea bites can swell into painful red mounds that can become infected or in the case of hives, a rash of raised red bumps. Consult a physician if the itching and swelling is not relieved by applying ice packs, by taking an antihistamine or if other symptoms including fever follow the bite.
The bite of a tick is painless and because they are small enough to be hidden by fur, are often not noticed until the tick itself has swollen with blood. Once the tick has been removed, a red mark where the mouth parts pierced the skin may be the only indication of the bite.
Reasons to Call a Doctor after a Tick Bite
A doctor should be consulted if a rash consisting of raised red bumps appears at the site of the bite or if a severe headache or fever occurs two to 14 days following the bite. If the bite is infected, which might occur if the entire tick is not removed, it could show red streak marks originating from the bite area and possibly produce a yellowish drainage. A red ring that resembles a bull's-eye surrounding the bite may indicate Lyme disease and could appear three to 30 days after the bite.
Discovering even one flea bite on your ankle or a tick on your dog, could mean there are hundreds more fleas and ticks in the vicinity, a problem that can only be truly solved by treating your house and yard with a pesticide specifically designed to eliminate the pests. Staying vigilant against a reinfestation can greatly reduce the chance for any future health problems for you and your pets.