The recent hot weather has led to an increasing number of people reporting tick bites, with some people attending Noble’s Hospital for treatment.
Ticks are small, spider-like creatures that feed on the blood of animals and humans. They vary in size depending on the developmental stage.
Ticks are usually found in moist areas with dense vegetation or long grass. Ticks attach themselves to the skin of an animal or human when they brush past. They bite into the skin and feed on the blood.
The major health risk associated with tick bite is Lyme disease – caused by bacteria transmitted by the bite.
Lyme disease is not very common – there were 959 cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales in 2011 (the last year which figures were produced).
Lyme disease often starts off with a skin rash which spreads from the site of the tick bite and can cover a large area. Some patients also notice ‘flu like’ symptoms. If untreated more serious symptoms affecting the nervous system, joints or, in rare cases, the heart may become evident.
Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics.
To minimise the risk of being bitten by a tick:
Wear appropriate clothing (a long sleeved shirt and long trousers tucked into socks) when visiting tick infested areas. Light coloured fabrics are useful, as it is easier to see ticks against a light background.
Consider using insect repellents, e.g. DEET – containing preparations.
Inspect the skin and clothing and remove any ticks.
At the end of the day check for ticks especially in skin folds.
Make sure that children’s head and neck areas, including scalp are properly checked.
If you find a tick on your skin, it should be removed promptly as infected ticks are less likely to transmit the infection if they are removed early. Ticks can be removed with tweezers or tick hooks, pulling upwards from the skin. The tick should be gripped as close to the skin as possible and pulled gently. If mouth parts of the tick are left in the skin, this can cause an allergic reaction.
For a bite itself, there is no need to seek medical advice; there is no need take antibiotics to prevent infection.
You should visit your GP if you get a skin rash especially with ‘flu like’ symptoms and please mention the history of a tick bite.