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How To Protect Yourself Against Ticks: A Guide

How To Protect Yourself Against Ticks: A Guide

Posted by HH on 10th Jul 2024

Ticks have long been a concern for public health, mainly because they are vectors for various diseases. Recently, increasing attention has been paid to the rise of ticks in the UK.

Popular news outlets have given them the fitting colloquial term, ‘monster ticks’ - coined due to a larger and more aggressive species of ticks that pose heightened risks to humans and animals.

Ticks such as the Hyalomma marginatum, which is not native to the UK, have been spotted in the country. These ticks are larger than native species and are known for their aggressive feeding habits.

However, native ticks such as the Ixodes ricinus, the castor bean tick, are becoming more prevalent.

Several factors are contributing to the rise of ticks and the appearance of non-native species; these include:

  • Warmer temperatures and milder winters create favourable conditions for ticks to survive and thrive, extending their active season and geographic range.
  • Migratory birds and imported animals can carry ticks long distances, introducing non-native species to new areas.
  • Increased outdoor activities and changes in land use, such as reforestation and changes in farming practices, can increase human exposure to tick habitats.

As has been previously mentioned, ticks are vectors for several serious diseases. The increased prevalence and diversity of ticks elevate the risk of these diseases spreading. The diseases include:

  • Lyme Disease, caused by Borrelia Burgdorferi, is transmitted primarily by the native Ixodes ricinus. Symptoms include fever, headaches, fatigue, and a skin rash called Erythema migrans. Lyme disease should never be left untreated, as it can cause serious complications involving the joints, heart and nervous system.
  • Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a viral infection that can cause inflammation of the brain and central nervous system. It is rare in the UK; however, there have been increased reports of TBE cases, possibly linked to the spread of ticks carrying the virus.
  • Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF): Carried by Hyalomma ticks, this severe and fatal disease is rare in the UK. Still, the presence of non-native ticks raises concerns about potential outbreaks. Symptoms to look out for include fever, muscle ache, dizziness, neck pain and stiffness, backache, headache, sore eyes and sensitivity to light. There may be nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and sore throat early on, followed by sharp mood swings and confusion. Symptoms can be sudden.

How to protect yourself against ticks

When venturing into tick-prone areas, wear long sleeves and trousers, use tick repellents, and perform regular tick checks. If you find a tick, make sure you remove the whole tick. After removal, place the tick in a sealed bag or container, wrap it in tape, or flush it down the toilet. Do not crush the tick with your fingers.

After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water. Seek medical attention if you begin to feel unwell.

Always check your pets for ticks when they’ve been outside. Invest in tick-repelling collars and pet-friendly sprays. Always keep up-to-date with flea and tick treatments, which can be bought online or from your vet.

Prime tick season in the UK is between April and July. During these months, walking your dogs in less rural areas may be best. When you venture off trail, factor in some tick-checking time when you return to base.

Showering within two hours of coming indoors can help wash off ticks that are not yet attached and provide an opportunity for a thorough tick check.

Property owners can reduce tick habitats by maintaining their lawns and removing old debris, such as fallen leaves.

Deer, rodents, and other wildlife are shared hosts for ticks. If you live in the countryside, use fencing to keep deer out of your garden and manage rodent populations through traps or professional pest control.

We hope this blog will assist you in protecting yourself against ticks whilst out in the wild. For more information contact a member of the team on 0330 300 0400. 

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