Hints and Tips for dealing with Ticks and Lyme Disease when Walking and Hiking
Any warmer weather is likely to see an increase in these annoying little blood sucking insects that not only bite but can also be a source of debilitating conditions such as Lyme Disease.
Ticks are parasites that are found in vegetation where they wait to attach themselves to an unsuspecting host - a sheep, a mouse, a deer or increasingly a passing human. They can also lurk in urban gardens and parks.
That's bad enough, but probably one in three ticks are thought to carry Lyme Disease which is transmitted by a bite.
Lyme Disease - if left untreated - can have wide-spread effects on the central nervous system and in extreme cases can be fatal.
Worryingly, the incidence of the disease is increasing. Recently released data from the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) show that the number of cases reported has more than trebled since 2001. The HPA reports that there were 959 laboratory-confirmed cases in England & Wales during 2011 from a total of between 2000-3000 overall. (The majority of cases are diagnosed without a laboratory test.) Whilst it's true to say that some of this increase is down to improved diagnosis and reporting, expert opinion is that the increase in the population and the geographical spread of the I. ricinus ticks both in the UK and the rest of Europe together with the increasing popularity of walking, trekking and mountain biking have been major factors in this increase.
The early symptoms of Lyme Disease are prolonged flu-like symptoms often accompanied by an expanding circular rash.
If you think you have been bitten and infected you should consult your GP mentioning that you have been out in the countryside. This should alert him/her to the possibility of Lyme Disease which can be confirmed with a blood test and treated with antibiotics or other medications.
Clearly it's far, far better to avoid getting bitten at all.
You can reduce the risk of bites by:
- covering up by wearing trousers and long-sleeved tops
- tucking trousers into your socks
- wearing light coloured garments on which you can easily see any ticks
- avoiding sitting in long grass
- staying on pathways if possible and avoiding tramping through overgrown areas.
If you do find a tick on you, remove it by gripping it close to your skin with a pair of tweezers and pull it out with a single, smooth action.
For more information: see here
“There is a new petition to ask the UK Parliament to debate lyme disease here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/113475”
Jane Scarborough, Fleet
“Thanks for highlighting the problems with Lyme Disease. Removing a tick swiftly is the way to go. The longer the tick feeds the greater the chance of infection (if indeed you happen to be unlucky with an infected tick)! Interesting to read the many comments on how to remove ticks. Some sites advise NOT to touch the tick & smothering them with vaseline, burning them etc. can cause distress to the tick. If a distressed tick regurgitates its blood meal from a previous host into you before it releases you have effectively increased your chances of tick-borne diseases Fine tipped tweezers are useful as long as you pull gently from the base of the skin where the mouth parts are or tick twisters are excellent as well. We like to use the words A Tick in Time saves Lyme, ie check yourself immediately after walks, if a tick is found before it bites your chances of infection are severely reduced. Wear light coloured clothing so you can see the critters on you, wear tick repellants etc. Being warned of the dangers can help you take precautions :)”
Jenny O'dea, Galway
“I get pour-on capsules from our local vet for the dogs. It is poured on the skin on three places on the neck and back and keeps the dog tick free for about six weeks. On the odd occasion when we have gone over the six weeks and a dog has picked up a tick we have covered the tick with nail varnish or a blob of super-glue which when it hardens the tick cannot expand and drops off within a day. Jim”
Jim Wilson, Berwick-upon-tweed
“An alternative that you may wish to consider for Lymes disease is a natural antibiotic called Samento. The latest news indicates that mixing this with Banderol is even more effective. Normal antibiotics have a chequered history with regards to curing Lymes disease. Always nice to have a plan B.”
Derek Bell, Sandbach
“I live near Winchester in Hampshire and find a tick on my cat about once/week during the ticklish time of year. They're easy to remove with a pair of angled tweezers which are sprung to be normally closed; they clamp around the base of the tick and then a quarter turn anti-clockwise gets the tick off. Not once has a tick come apart using this method.”
“Sadly, there are still a lot of GP's out there who will not recognise Lymes Disease. I know, I have Bells Palsy, most likely as a result of a tic bite! A classic sympton of an infected tic bite can be flu like symptons. Which can also resemble other infections! Any doubt, get and see your GP fast. If necessary, do battle with him or her....”
Mike Beaumont, Coventry
“Having just returned from Yorkshire, during which we found a large tick on the floor of our caravan, obviously dropped off either us or the dog. No sign of bite on us.
First week home and we found a tick on our dog, state of panic set in, I know enough about ticks that to try and remove by pulling out may well cause serious health issues. Went straight onto Internet and found loads of advice. Boiled down, most advice was not to try removal by squeezing, chances are you may leave bits in. What I did find was a video of a way to remove them by touch.
You attempt to spin them off by rubbing either clockwise and then reversing and reversing again. It works! After 15/20 seconds the tick just rolled off!”
Norman Wyatt, Loddon
“I found one of the blighters lodged just behind the soft flesh of my knee whilst following the Tarka Trail across Exmoor. Fortunately I was with walking companions who quickly flashed a total of three swiss army knives at me one of which had a tiny pair of tweezers which did the trick, thank goodness. Nasty little things ticks.”
David Grandage, Altrincham
“The tick breaths through air holes behind its legs, cover the tick in petroleum jelly, or indeed dowse in aftershave, and the thing can't breath and will drop off, without the need for mechanical extraction! Prevention being better than cure wear long trousers in tick areas (Tick bite on the scrotum?? yow!)”
Mark Smith, Lancashire
“Do not think that ticks are confined to upland areas only. I heard recently through a friend of a friend of someone who went to an open air concert at Kenwood House in London and was bitten by a Deer Tick. This person is now undergoing intensive treatment as a result. I would suspect that there is a potential risk in any of the London Parks, which have deer in them.”
Robin Hollister, Littlehampton
“Be prepared for a battle with your GP regarding tic bites and Lymes Disease. I had a battle with mine not too many years ago, he would not believe I could have been infected by a tic in this country! As a result, I now have Bells Palsy, which is facial paralysis. Bells Palsy is the result of stress caused to a nerve in the seventh cranal canal.”
Mike Beaumont, Coventry
“I read Jan Davies with interest. There are many who believe that the condition ME also known as CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) is, at least initially, set off by Lyme. The problem is, medics still say that a course of antibiotics sorts the problem, but the pathology is complex. One can test negative for Lyme after antibiotics but the test can check only circulating blood, not the tissues. Thus, there can be a chronic state. In the US, the medical bill for the state would be huge if they admitted that antibiotics don't always solve the problem. Lyme is set to be an increasing problem in our part of the world with global warming. There are others who say that chronic Lyme is not ME. However, the jury is out. So, always visit the doctor for a blood test immediately, cover up and, for any disbelievers out there- ME is REAL!”
“Have a close friend check you over from all angles when returning from a day out in a known tick area. I had to visit a doctor in the far NW of Scotland recently when I managed to get a few tick bites. He said he'd recently seen someone with tick bites on the scrotum. Moral of that story is wear trousers and not a kilt but seriously NO part of the bod can be ignored.”
Alan Barlow, Loughborough
“I would like to recommend the Trix Tick Removal tool. The Trix is a clever design with a spring loaded carbon fibre lasso that adjusts to fit the tick perfectly. I would not say it should be used on very small larval ticks - tweezers are best for these, but compared to the very crude Otom miniature crow bar, the Trix wins hands down. Personally I would rather pay a few extra pounds for a device that actually works.”
David Peters, Oxford
“Thanks for highlighting the tick problem (OK, I realise it was a while ago but I've only just got to it in my inbox!). I have been suffering health problems since 2004 and have only just discovered that I have Lyme which was most likely contracted during a holiday in the Lake District, as I became ill as soon as I got home. I am now being treated, though some of the damage is irreparable, unfortunely. If I had any idea at all about ticks and their prevalence, I would not be in this position now. I'm very disappointed that several medical consultants, e.g. neurologists, etc., did not investigate the possiblity of Lyme, despite one of them noticing a bite on my leg:-( Still, at least I know now and hopefully my health will improve. Please keep tick awareness at the top of the agenda.”
Jan Davies, Suffolk
“A dog-owning friend who regularly holidays in the tick prone area of the New Forest says that flea-powder sprinkled on a tick will make it drop off. This is more reliable than removing with tweezers as the body can break off leaving the head in place which is still dangerous.”
“Live near the NY moors, walk regularly with a mate and his dog. Normally stay in the NE and NY dales, due to [his] dog picking up ticks when [we've] been in the moors. Too much area not walked and would like any suggestions where the dog can be tick free + us. Cheers”
Tim Oakes, Darlington
“I've just read your article about the dangers Ticks are presenting this year and thought you might be interested in this view. I wouldn't recommend removing an embedded Tick with tweezers because of the danger of it leaving the head or mouthparts behind or, worse, of it bursting, especially if it has fed. My usual walking companion is an English Springer Spaniel, mad as a March Hare even at 13 years of age. He adores mountains, water and the sorts of places you can pick up Ticks; not necessarily in that order. I've been using something called the OTOM Tick Removal Tool on him since he was a pup and of the many dozens of Ticks he's picked up only one has failed to come out cleanly, mouth parts and all (and generally still alive) and that was probably due more to my ham-fistedness rather than any failing of the tool. It's basically a bit of bent plastic with a notch at one end - generally the best tools are the simplest. It's much cheaper to buy then any other tool I've seen and fantastically easy to use, instructions are on their web site. Details can be seen here. They are designed for dogs really but I wouldn't hesitate to use it on myself should I ever acquire a Tick. I've seem them for sale at the large Pet Chain Stores and at a few vets. When I bought mine - being so simple it has lasted quite a while - the vet's recommendation was that she hoped whoever designed the tool had made alot of money out of it as it's that good at what it's designed for. Regards Tim”
Tim Edge, Downham Market
“I seem to get a lot of ticks, I USED to find that the tweezers in a 'Swiss Army Knife' worked best, but now I have bought a 'Tick remover' for £3.50 from my local vet. It is called O Tom click here”
Chris Holloway, Yatton Bristol
The views expressed by contributors to this discussion are not necessarily those held by go4awalk.com.