Ticks are small, blood-sucking bugs, to put it bluntly, and when it comes to tick bites and children, or adults for that matter, it’s worth knowing what’s what.
What is a tick?
Ticks range in size, and can be as small as a pin’s head, to as large as a pea. They have eight legs and they’re classed as an arachnid, which means they’re related to spiders.
Ticks can carry a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi which can cause an illness called Lyme Disease. What’s more, ticks can also carry a whole host of other infections that may trigger different symptoms. Untreated Lyme disease can produce a wide range of symptoms, depending on the stage of infection. These include fever, rash, facial paralysis, and arthritis.
My daughter suffered from Lyme Disease when she was eight years old. It was certainly the most challenging time in my life, and I had my work cut out to get her back to her old vibrant self. That’s the reason why I’m so passionate about raising awareness of the dangers of ticks to protect others from being bitten.
Where can ticks be found?
Ticks can be found in long grass and in particular, in woodlands where deer live.
Ticks typically remain attached to your body after they bite you, and if you are bitten, you’ll most likely know because you’ll find one on your skin. They can attach for up to ten days, while they draw blood from your body. Once engorged, the tick will detach itself and fall off.
What are the symptoms of a tick bite?
Ticks can be hard to spot, as they can be very tiny, and you’ll usually find a tiny red mark around the tick once it is engorged in the skin. The bites are usually harmless, and unless you’re allergic to tick bites, they don’t itch. I found my daughter’s tick behind her ear, and only spotted it when I was brushing her hair.
In general, ticks tend not to cause any harm if they are removed safely with a specialist tick remover within 24 hours and if the red rash is smaller than a 2-pence piece. It’s worth investing in a tick remover just in case.
Some ticks carry diseases, and these can be passed on when they bite. Tick-borne diseases can cause a variety of symptoms and usually develop within several days to a few weeks after a bite.
Symptoms of tick-borne diseases include:
- a red spot or rash at the bite site
- a full-body rash
- neck stiffness
- a headache
- fatigue and weakness
- muscle or joint pain or achiness
- swollen lymph nodes
- brain fog
- poor temperature regulation
- light sensitivity
It’s worth knowing that a tick bite can only cause Lyme disease in humans if the tick has already bitten an infected animal.
How to remove a tick
- To remove a tick safely, use fine-tipped tweezers or a tick-removal tool. You can buy these from some pharmacies, vets and pet shops.
- Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
- Slowly pull upwards, taking care not to squeeze or crush the tick. Dispose of it when you have removed it.
- Clean the bite with antiseptic or soap and water.
- The risk of getting ill is low. You do not need to do anything else unless you become unwell.
How to prevent a tick bite
Wear long trousers and t-shirts when you’re out walking, and wear light coloured clothes so that ticks are easier to spot. Check yourself and your children every evening from top to bottom – behind their ears, in their hair, between toes and armpits, and if a tick is found, remove safely with a tick remover.
If it’s been there longer, there’s a rash present, or you feel unwell, contact your GP immediately who will prescribe a 3-4 week course of antibiotics. Remember to take a good quality probiotic for at least 3 months afterwards too.
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