A couple of weeks ago I found a tick. Right under my bra strap. I don’t like to think about how much of my body it must have crawled over to get there.
I’ve never knowingly been bitten by a tick before but I know they can transmit Lyme disease. It’s a bacterial infection which if treated promptly with antibiotics generally causes no problems. However if left the bacteria can cause skin rashes and even attack the central nervous system.
The thought of this prompted me to read up again on this pesky arachnid and how to avoid getting bitten, what to do if you do find a tick, symptoms of Lyme disease and how to treat it.
First, what are ticks?
They are small, spider-like creatures that feed on the blood of animals, including people. Ticks don't fly or jump, but wait until an animal or person brushes past to climb on. They then bite to attach to the skin and start to feed on the blood.
How can I avoid being bitten by a tick?
There’s no sure-way to avoid being bitten by a tick. They are found all over the UK, including urban parks and gardens. However they are most common in grassy and wooded areas and are particularly prevalent where there are deer and sheep. Everyone who walks in Ashton Court, Leigh Woods, Oldbury Court and Blaise should be especially tick aware and take precautions:
- Wear long trousers and tuck them into socks or wear gaiters.
- Use repellents on your clothing as well as on your skin. Legs, wrist, waist and neck are key areas.
- Wearing lighter coloured clothing makes it easier to check for ticks.
- When checking for ticks pay attention to backs of knees, groin and hairlines. They are tiny so itʼs easy to miss them.
What do I do if I have been bitten?
1. Remove the blighter as quickly as possible. Prompt removal of a tick can reduce the risk of transmission of Lyme disease. You need to be careful on how you do this as squeezing a tick could pump more of its juices into you and/or leave the head part still in your body. The safest way is to use a pair of fine tipped tweezers or a special tick-removal tool.
Click here for an information page on how to remove a tick safely -
2. Keep the tick. Kill it first then put it in a plastic bag or container. If you develop a rash of Lyme disease symptoms the tick will be useful to your GP. Some commercial companies also offer services to test removed ticks for the presence of the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. They analyse the tick’s DNA. Public Health England recommends that such tests should not be used to inform diagnosis or treatment as they can produce false positives. Plus a negative result may not be technically valid and could give false assurance, as it does not exclude the possibility that another tick elsewhere on the body has been missed. I’ve bought a test kit however and will use it if I find another tick.
3. Know the symptoms of Lyme disease.
Don’t get too stressed if you find a tick on you. Most tick bites are harmless. However there are a growing number of incidents of Lyme disease. Public Health England estimates 2,000 – 3,000 new cases of Lyme Disease each year in England and Wales.
The most recognisable symptom is a bull’s-eye type rash. This usually becomes visible from 1 to 4 weeks (but can appear from 3 days to 3 months) after a tick bite and lasts for several weeks. Not everyone develops a rash though, the current estimate is that a third do not.
Other symptoms include flu-like symptoms, fatigue, sore joints, muscle aches, light and noise sensitivity, cogntitive problems, a stiff neck, facial palsy, numbness and tingling.
4. If you are worried go straight to your GP. Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics if caught early. Don’t be fobbed off if test results produce a negative to begin with – this can happen quite often. Here’s some further advice from one of the UK’s Lyme disease charities on what to do if you’ve just been diagnosed with Lyme disease.
If caught early, Lyme disease is very treatable. The longer an infection is left untreated, the harder it will be to combat.
Here’s some useful websites for more information on Lyme disease: