Ticks & Lyme's Disease
I have recently been questioned on a number of First Aid courses I run about Ticks & Lyme's Disease,
"you cover bites and stings but why do you not cover Ticks"?
Personally although not covered in the syllabus I do add an additional bit onto the end of my courses as I do think there is real value in a better understanding of Ticks and Lyme's Disease. There has been an increased amount of media attention recently after a number of celebrities were diagnosed with Lyme's disease and in the recent hot weather people are out roaming the beautiful English countryside in their short and t-shirts so the chance of contact is heightened.
So here at BeSure we are going to look at a few interesting facts and information about Ticks, clear up some old wives tales and point you in the right direction should you have the misfortune to pick one up.
WHAT ARE TICKS AND HOW DO WE GET THEM?
Ticks are an External Parasite commonly found on deer, they usually inhabit woodland, forested areas, bushes (particularly fern), undergrowth and grasslands. The Tick requires blood to survive and continue its life cycle and reproduce so therefore needs to find a doner, willing or not.......
The Tick is not an insect it is an arachnid (8 legs on an adult not 6) they do not jump or fly onto the host but, it is able to sense by detecting body odour, breath, vibrations & body heat. Taking this into account the Tick's crawl to a suitable point on the foliage, usually on well known paths, runs and deer racks and wait for their unsuspecting host. Holding onto the undergrowth or grass by their 3rd & 4th legs they stretch out the first pair hoping as you brush past to latch on.
Once the host (You) brushes past and they are on board the tick looks for a place to attach to feed, often moving some way for the optimum place where it is warmer or thinner skin such as the armpit, back of the knee or groin before tucking in. A tick can take hours to find a suitable place to feed so they can be removed easily if found before they attach and start feeding.
Once the Tick has found a suitable place to dine then it, grips the skin and slices it open, some Tick's produce an anesthetic in their saliva to prevent the host feeling them allowing them to go unnoticed if they are in a well hidden position. Once the skin is open the Tick inserts its feeding tube (The tick’s rostrum), the tube which has barbs helps to secure the tick in place, which when then combined with a cement like substance they can secrete they generally aren't going anywhere until they let go after having their fill. There are 4 stages to the Tick's life cycle Egg, Larva, Nymph and Adult. Ticks require blood at every stage through of their life cycle, and they will find a new host each time. Once on the host they will feed till full then drop off until the require to feed again. The circle of life then continues with the next generation of Tick's and so on.
So as we can see the tick is quite well equipped to life on the road with its host in an almost sinister way. So what do you do if you get a tick on you?
HELP I'VE GOT A TICK ON ME !!!!!
As mentioned before the ticks can take up to several hours before finding the suitable place to feed, if you do find one crawling around in its early stage then you can simply remove the parasite and do as you see fit with it. If it is not engorged then it is unlikely to have been feeding on you so the risk to yourself is minimal. I personally have had a number of Ticks over the years in some very intimate places as well as some very awkward places, the most unpleasant being in the corner of my eye socket.
So what is the best way to get the little monsters off? There are numerous methods that are listed on the internet on forums, blogs and other information sites ranging from using Vaseline to suffocate the tick, burning with a match through to using tweezers to grab the mouth and pull them out. I personally don't advocate any of these methods and here is what I recommend are my reasons why.
The Tick feeds on blood as we have established, during the feeding process small amounts of saliva from the tick may also enter the skin/bloodstream of the host during the feeding process, also by the same reasoning If the host animal has a blood-borne infection, the tick will ingest the pathogens with the blood. So if the tick contains a pathogen, the organism may be transmitted to the host animal in this way so we need to reduce the chance of this contamination as best as we can.
As you can see from the picture to the left the tick is bulbous and about to pop after its had a feed. If you were to attempt to remove this tick in such a way as to squash the body whilst it was still attached the contents of the abdomen and potentially any infected pathogens will be essentially injected into you. The same reason that we don't try to burn them off or cover them in Vaseline is due to the fact that this will cause the tick to regurgitate the contents of itself back into the host (That's you) and potentially causing infection passing on any nasty stuff. As I mentioned before I have had to remove a number of ticks from myself and dogs over the years, fortunately I have never contracted Lyme's disease or anything else from them (Touch Wood). This I put down to 2 reasons one being LUCK and the other is using the correct tool for the job. I have always used a Tick Twister which is shown in the next picture .
This very simple but very effective tool is the perfect tool for the safe removal of a Tick that has already started to feed on it's host. The reasons that I love this tool is that its simple and it works!!!
The Tick Twister by O'Tom allows quick painless removal without squeezing the abdomen, and removes the tick completely including the rostrum. The Tick’s rostrum (the part that is embedded in the skin and improperly referred to as “the tick’s head”) is covered with backward pointing barbs that allow the tick to “anchor” in the skin. Using tweezers and pulling up on the Tick, the barbs will engage with the flesh and lock the rostrum in the skin. The Tick may then break apart leaving body parts resting in the skin and causing a painful inflammation, or worse an infection. Tick Twister works by twisting, the barbs that then bend into the axis of rotation, and the Tick is easily removed, without traction, decreasing the risks of breaking the rostrum.
The other factor I mention while removing a tick, is that it is essential not to compress it, reducing the risk of saliva back-flow. A tick’s saliva contains irritating substances and sometimes microorganisms and pathogens that can lead to infections and/or allergies. The Tick Twister is cheap and easy to use and a must for any First Aid kit at home. The video below is one that shows the simple but effective use of the Tick Twister By O'Tom .
HELP I’VE GOT A TICK ATTACHED If you do get bitten and have to remove a Tick remember to keep the body, this is for 2 reasons. It is possible to diagnose if a Tick is carrying Lyme’s disease and actions can therefore be taken with such knowledge, the 2nd reason is that if you have used alternative methods to remove the Tick such as tweezers and not a Tick Twister by O’Tom then they can examine it to ensure that nothing is was behind to cause a possible infection.
REMEMBER not all Ticks carry Lyme’s disease.
They do not routinely test Ticks but the government runs a Tick awareness scheme to monitor and chart the types and activities of Ticks across the UK. If you would like to send a tick to them for identification and help them record Tick distribution on a national scale, then follow their link Tick Surveillance Scheme section below
Once you have safely removed the Tick clean the bite area with antiseptic or soap and water and keep an eye on it for several weeks for any changes. A small red circular patch may appear soon after a tick bite and persist for a few days; this is normal. If the red patch does not disappear within a couple of weeks or begins to spread outwards, it may indicate Lyme disease and you should contact your GP for advice.
Lyme's disease can be a serious illness in humans, especially if it goes on undiagnosed. Signs can show from 72 hours up to 30 Days later. It has many similar characteristics to flu like symptoms, including
Muscle and joint aches
Swollen lymph nodes
Some people with Lyme’s disease show a common known sign of infection which is that of a red target-like rash called erythema migrans a Bulls eye type rash as show in the picture which begins at the site of a tick bite about a week after it has occurred, it can appear on any part of the body and not necessarily where they were bitten but is also not always present in 25-50% of cases.
If you are worried that you may have contracted Lyme’s disease, you should visit your GP ASAP explain the reasons, symptoms and history of your situation. If Lyme’s Disease is diagnosed and treated quickly it is more often than not normal to make a full recovery, however it has been linked to many other conditions such as:-
Additional Bullseye rashes
Joint pain, swelling of large joints.
Intermittent pain tendons, muscles.
Dizziness or shortness of breath
Brain and Spinal cord Inflammation
Nerve pain, tingling & Numbness
Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling
Short-term memory problems
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE What can we do to protect ourselves from these little blood suckers? Well the easiest and most effective way is to be aware of them. If you find them before they find you ( for lunch) then they can simple be removed, unfortunately they aren’t always that easy to spot. Other measures you can take include the use of insecticides on clothing and DEET products on skin that will help to repel the Ticks. When walking out in the countryside appropriate clothing to reduce the chance of them latching onto your skin. Staying to open footpaths away from the tall grasses and undergrowth where they are waiting in earnest for their next host. Primarily though the correct actions followed if and when you do find one are more important, initially safe removal of the Tick, (not for the Ticks benefit) followed up with the correct monitoring of yourself or the person effected, and appropriate professional medical treatment if required are the best course of action to ensure that you don’t become another statistic.
IF IN DOUBT GET IT CHECKED OUT!!!!
I hope you find this informative and helps you understand a little more about Ticks and Lyme’s Disease. I am not affiliated with Tick Twister by O’Tom and only speak of my own personal experience of using them over time and removal of dozens of ticks from both myself and animals. If you do want to buy to a Tick Twister click on the image below to be forwarded to Tick Twister By O'Tom Shop.