Tick Tock

The edi­tors tells us why we need to be aware of tick bites

Air Gunner - - Health Matters -

A short while ago I had a deeply se­ri­ous and shock­ing con­ver­sa­tion with a very ill man. He’d been bit­ten by a com­mon tick and con­tracted Lyme dis­ease, an ill­ness not all that well known in the UK and Europe, but one that’s a huge prob­lem in North Amer­ica where it was first un­der­stood. Doc­tors there are very well aware of the prob­lem, but Bri­tish GPs might never have en­coun­tered it and be­lieve they’re look­ing at a dif­fer­ent ill­ness, such as fi­bromyal­gia or chronic fa­tigue syn­drome. Be­cause this man’s ill­ness had gone un­di­ag­nosed for years, he’d had all man­ner of prob­lems that had left him quite dis­abled, which is all the more up­set­ting when you un­der­stand that if he’d been treated promptly, in all like­li­hood he’d have been fine.

Wor­ry­ingly, it seems that the re­ported in­ci­dence of Lyme dis­ease in on the in­crease, so it’s im­por­tant that we’re all aware of how we can con­tract it and what to do if we are bit­ten by a tick. In my own vil­lage, I read re­cently of two chil­dren who’d been bit­ten by ticks on a lo­cal play­ing field, so you don’t need to be far out in the coun­try­side to be in danger. How­ever, there are ar­eas more likely to hold high tick num­bers, such as farm­land that car­ries sheep and also ar­eas with high deer pop­u­la­tions, so ex­tra cau­tion is needed in these ar­eas. They’re most ac­tive from March to Oc­to­ber, al­though they can be found if warm pe­ri­ods oc­cur at other times of the year

NOTH­ING NEW

Over the years, I’ve re­moved ticks from my Labradors and it seems com­mon that they find dogs a use­ful host. In­ter­est­ingly, the dogs have never shown any sign of dis­com­fort as I’ve re­moved ticks. As the dogs speed through the long grass, the ticks grab onto their fur and then find their way up to the neck area where they burrow down through the fur to reach the skin. They bite through and drink the blood to gain nour­ish­ment. I’ve seen them when they’re empty and hun­gry and also when they’re bloated and full of blood, by which time they’re as big as a piece of sweet corn.

To re­move them I use a spe­cial tool that hooks un­der the head and with three anti- clock­wise twists, re­moves the crea­ture whole. If you just rip it off, you will leave the bit­ing parts em­bed­ded in the skin, which may well be­come in­fected. Never squeeze or crush the body while it’s still at­tached be­cause this will force the con­tents back through the mouth into the host, in­creas­ing the chance of in­fec­tion. Sim­i­larly, don’t try to burn it or at­tack it with chem­i­cals. Only a slow steady pull will re­move it whole and in a hy­gienic way. It’s wise to clean the bite site af­ter re­moval with an an­ti­sep­tic, too. If you don’t have a tick- re­moval tool, the next best thing is to grip the tick as close to the head as pos­si­ble with some fine tweez­ers and gen­tly pull it away. It’s im­por­tant to note that the ma­jor­ity of ticks do not carry Lyme dis­ease, so don’t au­to­mat­i­cally be­come dis­tressed if you are bit­ten, just be aware.

JUST FOOD

Of course, a tick doesn’t care if you’re a dog, a cat, a rab­bit, a deer … or a hu­man. We’re all just a source of nour­ish­ment to them and this is why we must be aware. If you’ve been out in the coun­try­side, it’s best to check your­self all over to see if one has at­tached to you and there’s no bet­ter way than to have a shower. Grue­somely, they’re most

likely to at­tach to your groin area, mak­ing their pres­ence all the more un­pleas­ant.

The rules for re­moval are just the same for us as they are for your dog, and if the tick is at­tached in an awk­ward place, if you know what I mean, you may well have to ask for help, no mat­ter how em­bar­rass­ing that might be. En­sure that you kill the tick be­fore dis­pos­ing of the body hy­gien­i­cally. I fold them into some kitchen paper, crush them flat and flush the lot down the toi­let.

It’s most im­por­tant that you care­fully mon­i­tor the bite site for months af­ter be­cause one of the com­mon signs that you have Lyme dis­ease is a rash that re­sem­bles a bull’s eye. Other symp­toms in­clude headaches, mus­cle and joint pain, tired­ness and a loss of en­ergy, and flu- type symp­toms, like be­ing both hot and shiv­ery. If you have any of these, see your doctor ur­gently and ex­plain your con­cerns about Lyme dis­ease and tick bites. It’s most likely that your doctor will do a blood test to di­ag­nose ex­actly what’s go­ing on. If Lyme dis­ease is shown in the re­sults, a three- week course of an­tibi­otics is the usual pre­scrip­tion and for most peo­ple, the re­cov­ery is quick. How­ever, some take longer, and a tiny mi­nor­ity take a very long time and may need to see a spe­cial­ist. As with many ill­nesses, it seems the quicker the di­ag­no­sis, the bet­ter the out­come is likely to be.

An Amer­i­can doctor told me that State­side, they pre­scribe a 200mg dose of doxy­cy­cline within 72 hours of any tick bite, as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure, but I don’t know if that’s be­ing adopted here.

PREVEN­TION

As the old say­ing goes, preven­tion is bet­ter than a cure, so what can we do to avoid the ticks getting on to our skin and bit­ing us? There are many, and in no par­tic­u­lar or­der here they are: Wear long trousers so that the ticks can­not grab di­rectly onto your leg hair. Some peo­ple tuck their trousers into their socks to add another bar­rier to the ticks, but it’s not 100% ef­fec­tive be­cause they can crawl through open-weave fab­rics. Wear high- qual­ity in­sect re­pel­lent that con­tains a high per­cent­age of the ac­tive in­gre­di­ent DEET. This is not an area to save money – buy the good stuff!

Per­haps the most ef­fec­tive de­ter­rent is to buy cloth­ing that has in- built in­sect re­pel­lent, like the ones of­fered by Rovince. Their clothes are treated with ZECKProtec, which forms a bar­rier that the ticks can­not hold on to, so they slide off be­fore they can do harm. Be­cause they can­not at­tach to the fab­ric, it also re­duces the chance of ticks be­ing trans­ported into your car or home where they could at­tack your or your fam­ily later. Clearly, it’s im­por­tant to check your dogs reg­u­larly be­fore they en­ter your home for the same rea­son. I once found a huge, bloated tick on the car­pet that had fed on my dog and then de­tached it­self be­cause it was full. Had I not found it, it might well have at­tacked again later when it had digested its meal.

Please don’t let this ar­ti­cle alarm you or dis­cour­age you from getting out into the coun­try­side. De­spite spend­ing huge amounts of my life in our beau­ti­ful out­doors, I’ve never been bit­ten by a tick, plus the ma­jor­ity of bites are quite harm­less. How­ever, I do want you to be as in­formed as pos­si­ble so that you can en­joy your sport safely.

“In my own vil­lage, I read re­cently of two chil­dren who’d been bit­ten by ticks on a lo­cal play­ing field”

ABOVE: They might be small, but ticks can be harm­ful MAIN: Our beloved coun­try­side is not with­out its wor­ries

ABOVE LEFT: The bull’s- eye rash is a very wor­ry­ing symp­tom

ABOVE RIGHT: Once at­tached, you should re­move ticks with great care

TOP: A proper ‘ tick tool’ is the best an­swer in my world

BE­LOW: Use the best in­sect re­pel­lent you can find

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