Tick Bites and Lyme Disease
Woodland and parks with deer can attract ticks.
What are ticks?
Ticks are small creatures that feed on the blood of animals and sometimes people, and can be found in both long and short grass. They can’t jump or fly, so they have to wait until an animal or human brushes past to attach to their skin. The tick population peaks between April to October.
What do they look like?
Ticks are about the size of a pin head, flat in shape and ranging in colour from brown to black. When feeding, a tick’s body will fill with blood and swell to the size of a match head, becoming purple, blue-grey or pink in colour.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by infected ticks. Human infection is uncommon. However, ticks that may be carrying Lyme disease are common in the countryside, especially woodlands and parks with deer.
What are the symptoms?
The early symptoms of Lyme disease develop between 3 to 32 days after receiving a bite from an infected tick. The first sign is often a pink or red rash around the bite site. The rash can gradually spread to form a large circle up to 50cm (20inches) in diameter, which can be faint or difficult to see on darker skins. Other symptoms can develop, including flu-like symptoms such as headaches, chills, tiredness, muscle pains, joint aches and fever.
More serious complications may develop weeks or months after an infected bite is untreated. These include temporary facial paralysis, pain, weakness or loss of sensation in the arms, legs or trunk and arthritis. Symptoms resolve quickly with antibiotic treatment. Early recognition and treatment is important and will help to prevent the more serious complications from developing.
How to minimise the risk of infection
The best precaution is to avoid being bitten so follow the prevention tips below. Tick bites don’t hurt, so they can easily go unnoticed. When you get home check your whole body for ticks, paying particular attention to your head, neck, skin folds (armpits, groin, backs of knees and waist) and your clothes. Be sure to check along the hairline and neck area, particularly in young children.
What to do if bitten
- Remove the tick as soon as possible. Using fine pointed tweezers or a tick-removal tool, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. To detach a tick, pull upwards firmly and steadily, without jerking or twisting.
- Don’t squeeze or crush the tick’s body as this could increase the risk of infection by prompting the tick to regurgitate saliva into the bite wound. After removal of the tick, apply an antiseptic to the bite site.
- Don’t use petroleum jelly, liquid solutions, freeze or burn the tick.
- After tick removal, continue to check the bite site over the subsequent month, looking for signs of increased redness or rash. Consult your doctor if any symptoms develop.
To prevent tick bites
- Wear long sleeved tops, trousers tucked into socks and closed shoes, not sandals
- Use insect repellent
- On pets, use tick repellent collars and tick treatments available from your vet
- Stick to paths
- Avoid walking through dense vegetation
Fine tweezers or a specialised tick remover can be used to remove the tick. The specialised tick removal tool has a flattened hook for effective grip on the tick. They are available for purchase at vet practices and online. For proper use follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Ticks and dogs
Remember to check pets for ticks too! Ticks like ears, eyes, chin, muzzle, tail and toes. If you are a regular dog walker at Normanby Hall Country Park consider carrying tweezers or a tick removal device in your pocket for rapid removal of the ticks.