Ticks are small eight-legged insects that range in colour from shades of brown to black and they increase in size as they feed on blood. Typically, the are not harmful in themselves but may carry and transmit diseases.
In the UK, Lyme disease (chronic borreliosis) is an illness that is primarily transmitted by ticks. This disease can cause a range of issues from joint stiffness, sensitivity to light and headaches to psychological problems such as difficulty concentrating and tiredness. It can also lead to serious complications.
Ticks in the UK tend to be found on grassy and wooded areas where they cling to vegetation waiting to attach themselves to passing warm-blooded animals or humans.
Tick bites are not harmful in themselves and you may not even feel a bite. However, a tick bite is usually easy to identify as ticks can remain attached to the skin for up to 10 days after the first bite. Ticks like to feed on household pets and therefore can transfer to you. In addition to passing diseases, their bites can trigger an allergic reaction. Only a small number of ticks are infected with Lyme disease and a tick can only transmit the disease if it has already bitten an infected animal. If a tick bite has given you Lyme disease, you are likely to develop a circular red rash around the tick bite that can resemble a ‘bull’s eye’ on a dartboard.
Below are different severities of symptoms you may see after a tick bite:
- A tick attached to the bite spot
- A small raised red bump
The Moderate Symptoms below indicate a non-severe allergy to tick bites:
- Swelling or pain at the bite site
- A burning sensation at the bite site
- A rash
Allergic reaction symptoms
Rapid onset of any of the following symptoms following a tick bite could indicate a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Anaphylaxis is potentially life-threatening and requires emergency treatment. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:
- Swelling of the throat and tongue
- Facial swelling
- Additional skin reactions, including itching, hives and pale or flushed skin
- Difficulty breathing
- A weak, rapid pulse
- Dizziness or fainting
- Loss of consciousness
- Additional possible symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain
Tick-borne Disease Symptoms
Tick-borne diseases usually develop within several days to a few weeks after a bite. They can cause a variety of symptoms. If you present any of the symptoms below, we advise you to contact Ahmey’s and book an appointment as they could indicate that you have contracted Lyme disease or another tick-borne disease. Potential symptoms of a tick-borne disease include:
- A red spot or rash near the bite site. If the rash resembles a bull’s eye, this could indicate that you have contracted Lyme disease
- Full body rash
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle or joint pain or achiness
- A headache
- A fever
- Swollen lymph glands
- Chills or flu-like symptoms
In the unusual event that a bite causes symptoms of a severe reaction, you will need immediate emergency care. If your bite is showing signs of being infected, we recommend that you contact Ahmey’s and make an appointment to see a doctor. If the bite is incredibly swollen, the doctor might prescribe a topical cream or oral medication to reduce swelling. If the bite is infected, the doctor may also potentially prescribe antibiotics. If you are showing symptoms that indicate a tick-borne disease, contact your GP immediately.
Tick bites do not usually require medical treatment. If you experience any symptoms of an infection or believe that you may have contracted a tick-borne disease, contact Ahmey’s to make an appointment. If you experience any symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, you will need immediate emergency treatment. Any mild discomfort can be treated by the patient themselves in the ways shown below.
First aid for tick bites:
- If the tick is still attached to your skin, remove it as soon as possible. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull upwards with steady pressure and do not twist or jerk. If the mouth-parts break off due to accidental twisting, attempt to remove them afterwards. If you are unable to do so, leave the site alone and let it heal
- Wash the affected area gently with soap and water and apply an antiseptic to clean the wound and reduce the chance of a bacterial infection
- Place an ice pack or a cold compress (cloth or flannel cooled with cold water) to reduce any swelling
- If possible, elevate or raise the affected area to reduce swelling
- Avoid scratching the area to reduce the risk of introducing infection
- You can purchase anti-inflammatory and anti-itching creams, such as Hydrocortisone, over the counter to relieve itching and reduce inflammation caused by insect bites and stings
- Ticks are most active during warmer months and typically live in grassy, bushy and wooded areas. However, they can live on animals
- Take care when camping, hiking, gardening and when coming into contact with animals
- Treat gear and clothing with products containing 0.5% permethrin
- If possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers and apply an insect repellant that contains 10% to 30% DEET
- Avoid wooded and bushy areas
- When you return indoors, check your clothing, skin and pets for ticks and shower as quickly as possible. Ticks prefer warm, damp skin and will usually bite: under the arms, in or around the ears, inside the belly button and anywhere that is typically less exposed.