These tiny little critters (2 – 4mm) live in the long grass and woodlands throughout Britain, with hotspots in the Highlands of Scotland, and in Southern England, and although most of them are harmless, a large number of them can be infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease – a sometimes devastating tick-borne disease that can result in chronic fatigue, confusion, pain, depression, loss of memory, and sometimes even death, especially if left undiagnosed as it can eventually move into the heart, brain and nervous system. It is therefore hugely important to check for ticks after walking in areas where they are likely to live, such as grass and woodlands, especially places populated by other animals such as deer and sheep.
How to prevent tick bites & tick removal –
- Use a chemical repellent containing DEET. It is best to use a repellent on your skin (if safe to – always check the label!), clothes, and shoes.
- Avoid tick infested areas and stick to footpaths when possible, staying out of the long grass where ticks lay in wait at knee height ready to attach themselves to a host.
- Cover your skin with light coloured clothing so ticks are easier to see and brush off, and whilst outdoors tuck your trousers into your socks and wear a hat.
- Don’t forget to check yourself, your children, and your pets thoroughly for ticks, especially after a walk, and carefully remove any ticks with tweezers or a tick-removal tool, grabbing it as close to the skin as possible, being careful not to squeeze or crush the tick as this can make it more difficult to remove it entirely. Clean the bite location with antiseptic or/and soap and water.
Signs of Lyme Disease –
- A red rash around the tick bite which is often like a bullseye on a dart board, however not everyone gets the rash, and it can take up to 3 months to appear, though most appear within the first 4 weeks.
- A high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery.
- Headaches, muscle and joint pain.
- Tiredness and a loss of energy.
Please visit a GP if you have any symptoms at all and have been bitten by a tick or have visited an area where infected ticks are known to live.
Facts and Figures
Around 10% of ticks have the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. It is estimated that around 3,000 people contract Lyme disease in the UK every year.