How to Spot and Remove Ticks

Like last year, ticks are a big problem in certain areas of the country. After a visit to the New Forest last summer we ended up with a trip to A&E to have several ticks removed from two of our girls, so I thought I'd give you a heads up on how to spot a tick bite, what to look for and how to remove them.

Lyme disease is a big concern when you think of ticks, but is very rare so try not to worry. But of course, it is better that everyone should know how to spot ticks and what to do about them.

Where Are Ticks Found?

Before discussing what happens when a tick bites you and how to remove it, let's take a quick look at the nasty little critters themselves.

Ticks are very small insects, often going unnoticed until it bites a person or an animal. They are sometimes as tiny as the head of a pin, so keep that in mind when examining your dog, yourself or your child after a trip to the forest.

Ticks are common in the UK and the U.S. as well as many other parts of the world. Here in the UK they are most often found in the South of England and the Scottish Highlands. They live in areas where they can attach to and feed off animals, and are often found in woodland, in grass and shrubs, as well as trees.

They rely on passing animals for their meals, so areas where animals roam freely, in addition to the usual wildlife, are particular danger spots. Here that means the New Forest with its wild roaming ponies, cows, donkeys and pigs as well as lots of deer, is a tick hot spot.

Ticks are most active in March to mid-May and mid-August to November, but they can be active any time when the temperature is above freezing. They look like tiny spiders and tend to be a dark red to black in the UK.

How to Spot a Tick Bite

So how do you know you have been bitten by a tick? I knew very little about ticks before last summer. After a day in the New Forest, Sophia came to me with what seemed to be a spot on her neck that was a bit itchy. On closer inspection the 'spot' had legs!

I had no idea what to do about it but tried to pull the thing out, with Sophia screaming. So we headed out to minor injuries for help. One the way we spotted another one on her tummy, and several on Tatiana.

A nurse tried pulling the largest one out of Sophia's neck but left part of it behind, so a doctor was summoned. She made short work of the remains and the other ticks and we left a little sore but tick-free.

How do you know when a tick has bitten you?

You have to look everywhere! They are teeny and seem to even get under clothing so be super vigilant whenever you have been in an area where ticks may be present.

A tick bite may be itchy, sore, be swollen or you may even have some pain at the site of the bite. But often a bite is not painful and you will only know you have a hitchhiker when you spot it. You should check your own and your children's and pet's skin regularly after being outdoors.

Other more extreme symptoms may include a blistered area of skin, red rash, burning sensation, or even difficulty breathing is also possible although less common. If these latter symptoms occur you need to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Otherwise it is possible to remove a tick yourself. This little tick removing gadget is very handy and suitable for both pets and humans.

Are Tick Bites Dangerous?

They sound scary, but in most cases, ticks are not going to harm you. However, they can carry Lyme disease, so the more you know about the signs, the sooner you can remove the lodged tick and get proper treatment.

Diseases related to tick bites might cause other symptoms, including headache, nausea, weakness, chills, fever, or joint pain. As mentioned above, shortness of breath may also be a symptom, in which case you should seek medical attention immediately.

Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that is easy to treat, especially in the early stages. You should look for a circular red bull's eye rash around the site of the tick bite. This can appear anywhere up to 3 months after being bitten, but usually occurs in the first four weeks.

Not everyone gets this rash though, so be vigilant for flu-like symptoms including a high temperature, feeling hot and shivery, headaches, muscle and joint pain, tiredness and loss of energy.

But remember, most tick bites are harmless.

How to Remove a Tick from the Skin

If you have any symptoms, you should first closely examine your body to look for the tick and remove it.

You should also check your pets, especially dogs, closely after a walk, and if they exhibit signs of pain or discomfort. Ticks lodge themselves in the skin, where you might just see part of the tick close to the skin’s surface.

Once you have located the tick, remove it with fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal gadget. This must be done right or you won’t remove it completely (see above!).

Tips For Removing Ticks

Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Get hold of the tick with tweezers or tick removal tool held close to the skin, pulling it in a slow, upward motion. Do this slowly and with a good amount of pressure, but don’t twist it. This could cause the mouth of the tick to remain lodged in the skin.

Slowly pull the tick upwards, taking care not to crush or squeeze the tick.

Afterwards. clean the area thoroughly with saline solution, antiseptic ointment or soap and water and cover with a plaster or bandage.

The risk of becoming unwell is small, so you do not need to do anything else unless you have other symptoms such as those outlined above, including a red bull's eye rash or flu-type symptoms.

How to Prevent Tick Bites

Ticks apparently hate the smell of lemon, orange, lavender, peppermint, rose geranium and cinnamon, so make sure you spritz your skin with a water spray or carrier oil containing one or more of those scents.

Eucalyptus, tea tree and neem may also help. As will eating garlic, so tuck in!

More summer health tips:

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