Are you tick aware?

When the sunshine makes an appearance, what better way to enjoy the weather than spending time in the outdoors?  There are some beautiful walks throughout Devon, from dramatic coastlines and sweeping bays to secluded valleys and the moors of Dartmoor and Exmoor, all waiting to be discovered.

Enjoying the outdoors is great for our health and wellbeing and has many positive benefits.  Coming into Summer, Public Health Devon are encouraging the public to be ‘tick aware’ to maximise enjoyment outside.

Ticks are small spider-like creatures that feed on the blood of animals, including people.  They are found in woodland, grassland and moorland where there is a dense vegetation layer and can be found in some urban parks and gardens.  Ticks don’t jump or fly, but they attach themselves to animals or people as they brush past something the tick is on.  Adult ticks are more active in late spring and summer.

Some ticks carry may carry an infection which can pass on to you when you are bitten, including Lyme Disease.  Not all ticks carry Lyme-causing bacteria and not all bites from an infected tick result in Lyme Disease.  Lyme disease can be treated effectively with antibiotics, but if it is not treated or if there is a delay in treatment it can lead to complications.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Mild flu-like symptoms including fever, headache and tiredness.  Sometimes people develop a ‘bulls-eye’ rash but not everyone develops this rash.

There are some simple steps to reduce the chances of getting a tick bite:

  • Walk on clearly defined paths to avoid brushing against vegetation
  • Wear light colour clothing so you can see ticks and brush them off
  • Use an insect repellent that can repel ticks
  • Wear long trousers and long-sleeved tops to reduce the direct exposure of ticks to your skin

Tick check

Ticks are very small and their bite is not painful so you may not realise you have one attached to your skin.  After you have enjoyed your walk, do a tick check to make sure there are none attached to your skin, by looking and feeling for ticks.  Look out for anything as small as a speck of dirt or freckle.

What do I do if I find a tick?

If the tick is removed from your skin within 24 hours you are less likely to get an infection.  The safest way is to use fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool.  Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull upwards slowly and firmly.  Once removed, wash with soap and water or apply antiseptic and keep an eye on the area.

If you being to feel unwell contact your GP and remember to tell them you have been bitten by a tick.

You can find more information about ticks on the NHS Choices website: www.nhs.co.uk