Ticks are small spiderlike blood sucking parasites that bite to fasten themselves onto the skin and feed on blood and can carry a host of dangerous diseases which can be transmitted to pets and humans.
Ticks live in the fur and feathers of many birds and animals. Tick bites occur most often during early spring to late summer and in areas where there are many wild animals and birds.
The best way to protect yourself and your pets is by prevention against tick borne diseases such as Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can be spread to humans by infected ticks and this is usually easier to treat if diagnosed early. Due to factors like forest defragmentation and climate change there is expected to be a rise in the prevalence of Lyme disease, hence vigilance is key in cutting your risk.
It is therefore important that precautions are safely taken to remove ticks as soon as possible.
Most ticks do not carry diseases and most don’t cause serious health problems. It is important to remove a tick as soon as you find it-removing the tick’s body helps to avoid diseases the tick may pass on during feeding.
Removing the tick’s head helps prevent the infection in the skin where the tick bit you.
How to avoid tick bites
- Stay away from tick infested areas. Stick to paths whenever possible.
- Ensure your skin is covered while walking outdoors in grassy or wooded areas. Regularly check your skin also the skin of your children or pets after being outdoors.
- Wear a long sleeve shirt and a hat, as well as long trousers -for added protection tuck your trousers into your socks. Wear gloves when you handle animals or work in the woods.
- Wear light coloured clothing so ticks are easier to spot and brush off.
- Safely apply insect repellent on your clothes and skin-products containing DEET are best. Remember to wash the repellent off with soap and water after returning indoors.
How to manage tick bites at home
- Remove the ticks as soon as possible as the sooner you do so the less likely they are to spread disease. As some ticks are so small it is sometimes hard to tell whether the tick’s head has been removed however if you do not see any obvious parts of its head in the bite site then assume you have removed the entire tick.
- Do also watch for signs of a skin infection. Carefully examine your skin and scalp. Be aware that the longer the tick is attached the more likely it is to pass on any infection.
- Remove the tick with a fine tipped tweezer or a tick removal tool. These are available from vets’ shops, pet shops and pharmacies.
- Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
- Slowly pull upwards taking care not to squeeze or crush the tick. Dispose of it when you removed it.
- Clean the site with antiseptic or soap and water and wash your hands well with soap and water.
- See your GP if you have been bitten by a tick or visited an area in the past month where infected ticks are found. Also see your GP if you get flu like symptoms such as high temperature, feeling hot and shivery, headaches, aching muscles or feeling sick or if you get a circular red rash.
- Do also inform your GP that you have been in forests or grassy areas.
Sources: Healthwise, NHS Choices, Patient UK