When summer arrives, it’s tempting to throw on shorts and a t-shirt and head for the great outdoors. Ticks can, however, soon spoil the fun, often camouflaged in long grass and gardens ready to bite. Here are a few tips on preventing tick bites and dealing with their consequences.
Keep arms and legs covered in the countryside
When heading into the great outdoors for walks or hikes, keep arms and legs covered with long clothing with no openings, and tuck trousers into socks. Often found hiding in long grass, ticks can strike in humid undergrowth, prairies, meadows and fields, as well as in urban parks and grassy lawns near swimming pools. Ticks are particularly present at the beginning of springtime and autumn.
Think twice about stretching out for a siesta on the grass, as the whole body will be exposed to potential bites. Although a picnic rug or towel won’t provide 100 per cent protection, sitting on some kind of cover can reduce the risk of tick bites. Plus, try to stick to the middle of paths when out walking.
Tick bites can also be prevented by applying insect repellant to skin or clothing. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
Finally, when coming back from a walk in the woods, check yourself over carefully, as a tick bite won’t feel immediately painful. Pay particular attention to armpits, folds of skin, the scalp and the navel, as ticks are particularly fond of nooks and crannies.
Use a tick-removal tool if bitten
If you do get bitten by a tick, make sure you act quickly. Use a pair of tweezers or a tick-removal tool — sold in pharmacies — to take hold of the tick as closely to the skin as possible. Then, pull it out while twisting it counter-clockwise to make sure no part of the tick remains attached.
Avoid applying any kind of product (ether, alcohol, etc.), which could cause the tick to regurgitate, increasing the risk of Lyme disease, caused by the Borrelia bacteria carried by ticks.
Even if you manage to get rid of the tick, keep an eye on the bite and its surrounding area for around a month and get it checked out by a doctor.
Watch out for rashes
The most frequent and characteristic symptom of Lyme disease is an expanding skin rash, called erythema chronicum migrans, literally meaning “chronic migrating redness.” This is very easily recognizable with a circular, bull’s-eye pattern of at least three to five centimeters in diameter and a white area in the middle. It can appear in the days and weeks following a tick bite and spreads from the center outwards. The rash is usually neither painful nor itchy. This first stage of Lyme disease (which can cause fever, fatigue, body aches and headaches) can be treated with antibiotics and can be effectively cured if caught quickly.