How to Avoid Ticks, and What to Do if you Don't

How to Avoid Ticks, and What to Do if you Don't

What are ticks?

Ticks are small, spider-like creatures that feed on the blood of animals, including people. The size of a tick can vary, with a larva being as small as a tiny freckle, and fully fed females similar in size to a baked bean.

Where do you find ticks?

Ticks survive in many habitats, but prefer moist areas with leaf litter or longer grass, like in woodland, grassland, moorland, heathland and some urban parks and gardens. Ticks don't fly or jump. They wait on vegetation for a host to pass by, and then climb on. They bite and attach to the skin and feed on blood for several days, before dropping off. Ticks are found throughout the year, but are most active between spring and autumn.

Avoiding ticks

Walk on clearly defined paths to avoid brushing against vegetation. Wear light-coloured clothes so ticks can be spotted and brushed off. Use repellents such as DEET. Carry out a tick check.

Carry out a tick check

Make it a habit to check your clothes and body regularly for ticks when outdoors and again when you get home. Check your children and pets as well. Ticks prefer warm, moist places on your body, such as the groin, waist, arm pits, behind the knee and hair lines, so look out for anything as tiny as a freckle or a speck of dirt. Young children are commonly bitten on the head/scalp so need to be carefully checked around the neck, in and behind the ears and along the hairline.

If you have been bitten

Remove ticks as soon as possible. The safest way to remove a tick is to use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull upwards slowly and firmly, as mouth parts left in the skin can cause a local infection. Clean the bite area, and monitor it for several weeks for any changes. Contact your GP promptly if you begin to feel unwell with flu-like symptoms or develop a spreading circular red rash. Remember to tell them you were bitten by a tick or have recently spent time outdoors.

Main health risks

Ticks can sometimes transmit microbes that may cause human diseases such as Lyme disease. It is important to be Lyme disease aware and see your GP promptly for diagnosis and treatment if you recognise the symptoms, including a flu-like illness, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and a characteristic expanding red rash (present in many but not all cases). You may not always remember being bitten by a tick, so if you have spent time outdoors and develop any of these symptoms, seek advice from your GP or dial NHS 111. Lyme disease can be treated with a course of antibiotics. Without treatment, more serious conditions can develop such as swelling in some joints or problems with the nerves and heart, so prevention and early detection are key.

~Robert Bartlett, Chairman, Brockwood Patient Participation Group

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