TickWatch is an awareness campaign promoted and supported by Woodlife Trails to try and raise awareness into ticks and the effect of ticks on the human body.
Please read the article below which was put together by Pablo. The article has appeared in “Traditional Naturopathic Remedies and Tips” by Roderick Lane , M.D.
The Trouble with Ticks by Pablo
What the Problem?
In amongst the wonderful creatures that exist in our woods, forests and fields, there are one or two that are positively un-welcome. Even if we are just going for a walk in the countryside, we could be liable to a visit from one of these uninvited guests. Of course, if you regularly camp out, you are even more vulnerable to these tiny creatures. They are very active this time of year and go by the name of ‘ticks’.
What are ticks?
Ticks are related to spiders and feed off the blood of virtually any bird, mammal or even occasionally, reptiles. There are a number of species depending on where you live. Most can be seen with the naked eye and are generally dark coloured. The nymph stage is the most likely to bite and is the size of a pin-head. It will grow as the blood sac enlarges and its colour will change to a lighter grey. It’s at this stage that people are likely to realise that they’ve been bitten especially if an adult tick bites as they’re more visible. The bite itself doesn’t hurt as the tick anaesthetises the area of your skin before it bites.
Ticks will survive better in hotter weather, but they will actively seek blood during warm weather and can attach themselves anywhere (and I mean anywhere) on the body, especially those nice warm places we have! In our countryside they tend to hang out in damp places like mammal feeding areas but they can also be found in bracken, and long grass of meadowland and parks. There are recognised hot-spots in the UK where there’s a high concentration of farm mammals or deer. It is thought that because of milder winters and other factors, it’s not unknown for ticks to be found even in urban areas.
So what’s the deal?
The trouble with ticks is that they carry diseases. They pick up the diseases from other animals they’ve feasted on and could transmit these diseases to humans. They can also inherit the disease from the parent tick. The most harmful is Lyme disease or Lyme borreliosis which can be a very debilitating illness lasting sometimes for years if not treated in the early stages.
Early symptoms can develop within days or weeks of the bite which may include tiredness, chills, fever, headache, muscle and/or joint pain, swollen lymph glands and blurred vision. A characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans may appear. It is generally a circular red rash that may be clear in the centre, resulting in a “Bull’s eye” type of appearance. It can expand and move around the body. Medical help must be sought as soon as possible and ensure that your doctor is aware of your concerns of a tick bite.
You may also find a purplish rash or blister on the ear lobe, nipples or testes.
Prevention is better than cure. This is true. Follow Pablo’s tips below and just be mindful when going into long grass and overgrown bracken-type areas.
You should generally remove a tick as soon as possible. The longer the tick is attached and hence if the tick is full of blood there an increased likelihood that it will transmit the disease.
If an infection develops, a number of antibiotics are effective, including doxycycline, amoxicillin, and cefuroxime. Treatment is usually for two or three weeks. Some people develop a fever and muscle and joint pains from treatment which may last for one or two days. In those who develop persistent symptoms, long-term antibiotic therapy has not been found to be useful.
How to remove a tick
It’s difficult to avoid ticks with our past-time, so we have to take the risk; it’s as simple as that. There are a few preventative tactics we can employ and I’ve outlined these in Pablo’s Tick Tips below. We can obviously check ourselves thoroughly at the end of the day and use a ‘buddy-buddy’ system of inspection if you’re with a group of people. When you get home after your excursion, check yourself over thoroughly before jumping in the shower. If a tick is found, it should be removed preferably with a tick removal tool. The removal tool instructions will tell you to twist out the tick once you have grasped it with the tool.
The mouth-parts of a tick include a hypostome (rostrum) which is implanted in the skin during biting. This hypostome is fully covered with backward directed projections like barbs; this allows the tick to “anchor” into the skin. If you try and pull out the tick, the spikes may rise and the mouth-parts of the tick can break and stay in the skin, causing pain and infection. With a specialist hook, you can turn the body of the tick; the spikes fold into the axis of rotation, and the tick is easily removed, without traction effort, and decreasing the risks of breaking the rostrum.
If you don’t have a removal tool, use pointed tweezers. It’s difficult to twist the tick with tweezers so grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible without squeezing the tick’s body and pull the tick out gently turning the tweezers as much as you can.
If no tools are available at all, rather than delay, use a cotton thread – Tie a single loop of cotton around the tick’s mouthparts, as close to the skin as possible, then pull gently upwards and outwards. The idea is to remove the whole of the tick from the skin. If a part is left in (if you’re not careful, it’s normally the head) you can still get infected.
The sooner the tick is removed the better, but there’s no set time that a tick has to stay attached to the skin to potentially infect the host.
Don’t… be tempted to burn off the tick or use any other methods, for example paraffin, petrol, vaseline or meths. This may make the tick regurgitate the content of its stomach.
After the tick is out, use antiseptic to clean the area; wash your hands (and tools used) and try and save the tick in case later symptoms develop. There’s no need to panic though. Many ticks do not carry the disease. Just be wary and check yourself thoroughly.
Please also bear in mind that the information is for use in the UK and other countries may have different tick types and diseases.
Don’t let this stop you enjoying the outdoors… just be aware of the dangers of ticks.
Pablo’s Tick Tips
- Clothes – Wear long sleeved shirts and long trousers. Tuck trousers into socks.
- Use a good insect repellent. It’s not 100% guaranteed but it will help prevent ticks. Ensure you read the label and instructions for use.
- Carry a tick remover and antiseptic wipes. Tick removers are available from websites and some veterinary surgeries and pet stores.
- Avoid over hanging vegetation at the edge of paths where ticks may be waiting or use a stick to shake ticks off vegetation before walking through.
- Check yourself thoroughly at the end of the day or after serious “dirt-time” (stalking or crawling through vegetation.)
- Have a “tick buddy”. Pay particular attention to the scalp as ticks can easily hide under hair. Get them to check the belt line, armpits and behind the knees.
- Take off outer clothes before going indoors. Ticks are very intolerant to being dried out and so clothing can be treated in a tumble dryer to kill any ticks that may remain hidden.
- Make sure you check over your pets.