This week, April 11-17th, is Tick Bite Prevention Week. It sounds like it should have a lot more attention than it does, but maybe that’s due to the upcoming royal wedding taking the shine off it, or maybe its just people don’t like to think about being bitten by Ticks.
Despite the lack of attention it’s getting from elsewhere, both ourselves and CampingNinja care enough about our readers/users to give this some real attention, just as we have previously on this blog talking about Prevention of Midge Bites.
With spring now upon us, the sun is shining and a few warmer days behind us, the walkers and campers amongst us are excited once again at rambling across hill and through valley in search of that perfect walk. However, this time of year is also the time of year when Ticks are on their way to becoming most active and this means you are more likely to be bitten by them. In order to understand exactly why being bitten by a Tick can be more annoying than a midge bite this post will explain a little about ticks, what the bite can do and how you can protect yourselves and your pets from being bitten.
What is a Tick?
Ticks are tiny parasites from a group called ectoparasites [wiki], which means they live externally on a host (mammals only) feeding from it’s blood. Ticks do not have wings and cannot jump, they move around by walking either on the floor or from plant to plant, they are also commonly moved via transportation on a host (eg a squirrel). As a host moves close to a tick it will either drop onto the “victim” or will latch on as they brush by using special hooks on their legs.
Despite common belief a Tick is actually tiny. Most people think of them as being pretty big, but that is usually because they have seen one on an animal full of blood and bloated, in reality they are just a few millimetres in size when not fed. Also as with most animals depending on the type and age of the Tick it can be larger or smaller … but they are still very small.
In the UK and Ireland, there are over 20 species of tick. Some have hard bodies (with a hard plate on their backs) and some have soft, leathery bodies. Because of these differences, the two families of tick are called hard ticks and soft ticks. There are many species of ticks in each of these families. It is usually a species of hard tick that is found on pets or people, although some types of soft ticks will bite them too.
What are the Risks of a Tick bite?
With more and more houses being built in more rural areas, winters getting warmer (according to the scientists, though I didn’t feel it this year) and the UK population being encouraged to do more and more outdoors exercise, such as walking, ticks bites are becoming much more common place than ever before. But unlike midge bites which don’t generally cause illness to the victim, Ticks carry a substantial number of bacterial, viral, rickettsial and protozoal diseases.
Several of the diseases can be debilitating for humans and animals. Some of them will just cause fevers. The list of diseases includes Lyme disease which if left untreated can lead to heart and brain problems, and in Europe ticks also carry Tick Borne Encepalitis. You can read more about the diseases you can catch from a Tick bite on the Lyme Disease Action and Gov.uk websites.
The bad news is that there is no vaccine to define against Tick bites and the myriad of problems they can cause, so the key really is prevention.
Preventing Tick Bites
There are many tips around the internet on how to prevent tick bites, some of them such as walking behind a smoker probably aren’t too good for your health! So here are the CheapTents Top Tips for not being bitten by a tick.
- Cover Exposed Skin – wear long sleeves and trousers
and as odd as you may look tuck your trousers into your socks
- Use Insect Repellent – ensuring it is useful against ticks
most repellents with 20%+ DEET are effective against ticks
- Avoid the Ground
sitting or lying on the ground means your more likely to be bitten
- Stick to the Paths
over grown vegetation can be a haven for insects which bite
- Wear Light Coloured Clothing – ticks will stand out against these
- Regular Tick Checks – check any area that could be dark and damp
this includes arm-pits and between your legs
How to Remove a Tick
If you are using a special tool follow instructions for use, as shown in the video below for example. If you are using fine-tipped tweezers grasp the tick firmly and as close to your skin as possible. In a steady motion, pull the tick’s body away directly outwards without jerking or twisting.
Regardless of whether the tick is removed wholly or partially you must keep the tick, put it into a plastic bag or container. You should also seek medical attention as soon as possible, taking the tick with you means they can diagnosis any illness faster.
Should any part of the tick be left in your skin, we recommend you leave it in place and immediately go to the doctors.
Do NOT use anything other than a special tool or tweezers, this includes alcohol and lighters – yes they will release but the stress to the tick can cause them to regurgitate their meal. This will dramatically increase the chances of infection from the tick.
Note 1: Ticks can remain on the body feeding for 5 to 7 days, if undisturbed. The longer the tick is attached the higher the risk of infection, although transmission can occur in less than a day. Any tick bite should be considered as posing a risk of infection.
Note 2: Ticks also try to find other hosts such as dogs and cats, so protect them too with specialist repellents or a tick collar. If you live in a rural location and have other animals, such as rabbits, you may want to consider giving them tick treatments too – but with any treatment please consult with a vet first.
Have you ever been bitten by a tick?
We’d like to know if you’ve ever been bitten by a tick and if so what did you do to remove the tick? Do you know anyone who has been ill because of a tick bite? If so let us know in the comments below.