Ticks, Lyme disease and prevention

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All About Ticks


Ticks are not insects, they are arachnid arthropod parasites, loosely related to the spider family, and like spiders they mostly have 8 legs rather than the 6 of insects, though they can have 6. There are more than 800 species of tick, some have a hard carapace (hard ticks) whereas others have a leathery exoskeleton (soft ticks). The tick has three life stages, larva, nymph and adult - nymphs are often no larger than the head of a pin. The most common in Scotland is the sheep or deer tick.

There is a common misconception that Ticks live in trees and drop down onto their victims from above, the reality is that they live in long grass, low-lying bushes and foliage, scrub and heath. Ticks are active all year round, but are most active from May to September (although this can vary considerably depending upon weather trends). Ticks can be found across the world, but are a particular problem throughout Europe, the United States, China and Japan. Within the UK Ticks are a particular hazard in certain areas, such as the New Forest, Thetford Forest and the Yorkshire / Cornish moorlands. They are also increasingly common in Scotland.

Ticks are parasites and live off the blood of humans and (more commonly) other animals including small rodents, pets, sheep, deer and birds. A Tick detects its victim through vibration and changes in temperature. Because of their habitat the first place that they will come into contact with humans is around the feet and lower legs. Ticks do not have teeth, but they attach themselves to their host by embedding their mouth into the skin - with hard ticks they will burrow their whole head into the skin where they can remain feeding for up to 72 hours. Unlike with other parasites there is no pain attached to the tick bite, and therefore this makes it very important to check yourself for ticks after leaving a high risk area.

A tick can cause serious problems - however these are more related to what the tick might be carrying rather than the tick itself. Through feeding ticks can transfer viruses, bacteria, smaller parasites or even poison to their hosts. This danger is increased if a tick is shocked or stunned in the process of removal - burning a tick off, stunning it with alcohol or smoothering it with vaseline can cause the tick to regurgitate saliva, greatly increasing the risk of transfer. Roughly pulling a tick out can also sometimes leave the head of the tick embedded in the skin - this also greatly increases the chance of infection. The safest way to remove a tick is to use a pair of tick tweezers - these will grip the tick without shocking it and, (generally with a twisting motion) will remove the tick with the head intact.

Possibly the most dangerous bacteria that a tick can transmit to its host is the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria which is responsible for Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease is becoming more common across much of northern and central Europe, the northern United States and southern Canada, and in parts of Russia, China and Japan, it is a potentially debilitating disease that can lead to serious health problems or, in the most extreme cases, even death.

The Three Stages of Lyme Disease

1) A red ring-shaped rash (Erythema migrans), often known as a bullseye rash, appears around the site of the bite in approximately a third to a half of cases. Over the course of around three weeks this rash will slowly expand and then fade from the middle.

2) Flu-like symptoms may appear: headaches, exhaustion, joint and muscle pains in the arms and legs. These symptoms may last for a while, may come and go, and may eventually disappear

3) Severe joint pain, cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and nervous system disorders may appear, often months after the initial bite.

There is no vaccine against Lyme Disease, however, early treatment with antibiotics is generally successful at preventing any escalation or severe symptoms. Safe removal of a tick within 8 hours of being bitten gives the best chance of avoiding infection in the first place - however when bitten it is always sensible to record the date / time of the bite in case this information is required by a medical professional at a later time. Testing the tick for Lyme bacteria is another sensible step. If you are bitten and have any cause for concern, or show any of the symptoms of Lyme Disease then professional medical help should be sought as soon as possible.

The bacteria that causes Lyme Disease is passed on through the bite of a tick - not all ticks are infected, but estimates are that 1 in 12 ticks in the UK carry the Lyme bacteria, and in Europe this number is higher. The best way to avoid the risk of Lyme Disease is to take precautions against being bitten by a tick, and if bitten to take action as soon as possible. To ensure that all can enjoy the countryside and head home with only good stories Care Plus have devised a simple three step plan to stop the Tick and prevent Lyme Disease.

1. Prevent
  • Use an insect repellent like Care Plus DEET or Care Plus Natural on any exposed skin. Repellents confuse ticks, making them less likely to target you.
  • Cover up by wearing a long sleeved shirt and tuck your trousers into your socks. Care Plus Bugsox give still greater protection by killing the tick before it starts its journey.
  • Wear light coloured clothing. It's easier to spot a dark tick crawling on your clothing than when it has made its way onto your skin.
2. Remove
  • First check for ticks, particularly at the end of the day; be sure to include skin folds (armpits, groin, neck and waistband). It is important to find them within 8 hours.
  • Found a tick? Use a Care Plus tick remover and completely remove all parts of the tick by gently gripping it as close to the skin as possible and pulling steadily upwards with a twisting motion.
  • Do NOT burn, smother or squash the tick as this will simply agitate it and cause it to regurgitate possibly harmful bacteria. Be sure to disinifect the area after removal.
3. Test
  • Is the tick engorged (signs of feeding) or has it been attached for a long time? If the tick has been feeding for 8 hours or more, the risk is far greater.
  • Use a Care Plus Tick Test. By following the simple instructions it is possible to check if the tick(s) carry the bacteria that cause Lyme Disease.
  • A positive test can be presented to your Doctor who is encouraged to start an immediate course of antibiotics.
We do not sell bugsox or the tester.

There is a small Care Plus leaflet to download - stop the tick - to help spread information (12 Mb), or one from NHS Scotland.

 Care Plus tick remover
Care Plus Tick-Out
tick remover
grip and twist
 Care Plus ticks2go
Care Plus Tick-Out
under and twist
 midge magic repellent spray
Tick Magic
tick repellent
75 ml spray
 midge magic repellent lotion
Tick Magic
tick repellent
75 ml lotion

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