Ticks are small parasitic insects that feed on the blood of birds and mammals – including you. They are found in many parts of the National Park and unfortunately carry several diseases including Lyme disease.
Ticks live in tall grasses, shrubs, bushes and trees branches up to waist height, and attach themselves as you brush past – they prefer creased areas like the armpit, groin and back of the knee. You won’t feel the bite, as the tick will anaesthetise the area. Don’t panic though, simply being bitten by a tick doesn’t mean you’ll automatically contract Lyme disease, however the risk is out there.
How to keep yourself safe
- Walk in the middle of paths and avoid unnecessary ‘bushwacking’ between March and October.
- Keep your arms and legs covered.
- Ticks stand out on light-coloured fabrics
- Good quality insect repellent can reduce the incidence of tick bites
- Check clothes and skin carefully– in springtime ticks are tiny, but more easily spotted in summer
- Check that ticks are not brought into the home on clothes, pets, equipment, rugs etc.
- Check children carefully, especially along the hairline and scalp
If you discover a tick
- Fortunately they are relatively easy to remove – use a good pair of sharp tweezers, grip the tick by the mouth parts (close to your skin as possible), and pull it straight out anti-clockwise. DO NOT squeeze the body of the tick, apply substances like Vaseline or try burning the tick off, these can lead to an infection.
- If you do not have tweezers to hand, a loop or slipknot of strong cotton wrapped around the mouth parts, and pulled, is also effective. Make sure you remove all of the mouthparts.
- Removing ticks as soon as possible reduces the risk of infection – consider retaining the tick in a sealed container in case you develop symptoms later.
- The most obvious symptom of Lyme disease is the ‘Bull’s Eye’ rash, a red ring-shaped rash spreading from the site of the bite. It appears 2 – 40 days after infection and is the only sure-fire symptom of the disease. If you develop this rash, take a photo for your doctor. Less than 50% of people with Lyme get this rash, and if left untreated a range of serious symptoms can develop, including a flu-like illness, facial palsy, joint pain and viral-type meningitis.
- If you think you may have caught Lyme disease, see your GP straight away. If the GP suspects Lyme’s you should begin antibiotic treatment right away, without waiting for any test results.
For more information visit the National Health Service website.
Or watch ‘Under the Skin” a documentary investigating the spread of Lyme disease from BBC Disclosure.