People were today reminded to check for ticks after enjoying walks in the countryside this Bank Holiday weekend.
Ticks, which tend to live in long grass and woodland areas, are especially common at this time of year and can carry serious diseases such as Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) – although the chances of catching the latter are extremely low.
The easiest way to combat ticks is to prevent them from biting you in the first place, says Matt Croughan, Clevedon Minor Injury Unit manager for Sirona care & health, a not-for-profit social enterprise, which provides NHS and Local Authority funded adult and children’s services across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.
He says: “If you’re out walking in the countryside, or your kids are playing in long grass, this spring or summer, be sure to cover up: wear long trousers tucked into your socks and long sleeves to protect your skin from exposure to ticks.”
People are also advised to stick to clear paths, when possible, use insect repellent (preferably those containing deet) on clothes and skin, and wear light-coloured clothing so ticks are easier to see and brush off.
After a country walk, Matt says walkers should check themselves and their children thoroughly as tick bites are not always painful so people may not know they have been bitten. He says: “Tick bites are more common when it’s warmer and the grass is longer. Because ticks like the warmth, areas like your armpits and groin are common hotspots for ticks to attach themselves to you.”
If you do find a tick, Matt says they can be easily and safely removed by anyone when done correctly. “Make sure you have a tick remover tool – available in pet shops, vets, and online – in your home first aid kit,” he says. “Slide the head of the removal tool around the tick, making sure to grip the tick as close to your skin as possible – this will ensure you get hold of the tick’s entire body. Twist the remover tool slowly clockwise to unwind the tick; as you do this, steadily and gently pull the tick away from your skin – this should ensure the whole tick is removed. Wash the tick down the plughole and then wash your skin with soap and water, then apply antiseptic cream to the skin around the bite.
“There is no need to seek medical attention unless you develop a bullseye rash or flu-like symptoms within three months, which could be signs of Lyme disease, in which case contact your GP.
Matt said: “While ticks can carry serious disease, they are easy to prevent and can be removed safely by anyone. Remember: buy a tick remover now, cover up, check yourself and your kids, then twist ticks out and monitor for symptoms.”