You may be confused or worried when people talk about ticks in the countryside. We’re going to help you be tick aware!
We’re family focused at Farmer Palmer’s so naturally baby and children’s health and happiness is a priority for us.
Ticks are quite common, living in pastures, woodland and forest areas, but the chance of ever having one is rare. It is often a relief to understand that, armed with a little knowledge, you are a prepared parent who knows what to do if you ever find one!
They are tiny creatures (parasites) that feed on the blood of birds and mammals, including that of humans. Not all ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, but as there is a small risk the sooner a tick is removed the better.
We totally understand how spotting a tick on your little one could, at best worry you, and worst totally freak you out. They look disgusting and have no redeeming features at all as far as we can see!
Not very pretty! Ticks are small black spider like creatures, about the size of a sesame seed. Often they go unnoticed because they are very small & hard to see until they start to feed.
When are ticks most likely to bite?
Most ticks are active in milder weather and abundant late Spring and early Summer. This is also when most people are exploring the British outdoors and taking part in activities such as hiking and camping.
Where can you find ticks and what do they live on?
They tend to be on the ends of grass waiting for a host to brush past so it can hop on. The juvenile stages feeding on smaller hosts such as wood mice, small rodents, larger mammals like hedgehogs, rabbits, hares and squirrels. Adult ticks feed on larger hosts like sheep, cattle and deer, attaching themselves to the skin, feeding on blood for a few days, then fall off.
If it is embedded into the skin, you need to remove it promptly, ideally within 24 hours! Remove all parts of the tick’s body to prevent it releasing additional saliva or regurgitating its stomach contents into your bite wound.
Deep breath, Yes, you can do this! It is important that you follow the instructions below
And for those of you who do not have help, or cannot face the trauma that a wriggling toddler or baby is presenting it’s sometimes easier removing the offending bug while your child is asleep and could be less traumatic for all concerned. Just a practical idea!
NHS advice on how to remove a tick
- Wash your hands
- Start by cleansing a pair of pointed (not blunt/flat eyebrow) tweezers or a tick removal tool with antiseptic.
- The technique is to pull the skin taught with the fingers of one hand
- With tweezers grip the tick firmly at its head or mouth, as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull firmly and steadily away from the skin without twisting or crushing the tick. You may be surprised as to how firmly you need to pull.
- Parts of the tick might stay in the skin, but eventually will come out on their own
- Wash skin with water and soap afterwards
- Apply an antiseptic cream around the bite.
- Put the tick in a jar or zip-locked bag in case you want to have the type identified later on.
Or you can watch this video to see how to remove a tick
What do I do with it now?
Be aware that engorged ticks will contain potentially infected blood, which may splatter when crushed. Do not crush the tick with your fingers and do not allow the crushed tick or the blood it carried to contact your skin
- Once removed, kill the tick by crushing it and flushing it down the toilet, or by folding it in a strip of sticky tape and placing it in the waste.
- If choose to visit your doctor pop it in a container as evidence that you have been bitten (label it with date and location).
- Alternatively, you can keep the removed tick in a sealed container and send it to Public Health England’s Tick Recording Scheme. They will identify it for you and add the information to their database.
Methods to avoid when removing a tick
Do Not be tempted to go for the old fashioned ideas for tick removal
- Eyebrow tweezers with flat edges are not suitable
- Do not simply squeeze the body of the tick
- Fingernails are a no no as bacteria from your nails may introduce infection to the wound
- Forget petroleum jelly, olive oil, nail polish, Vasaline or any chemical.
- Never use a hot match to burn it off.
These methods don’t get the tick off the skin, and can make it burrow deeper and release more saliva (which makes it more likely to pass a disease).
When Should I Get Medical Care?
There is a risk that a tick could be carrying Lyme disease (see below). It is a good idea to call your doctor or nurse practitioner. This is especially important if you, or your child has:
- The tick might have been on the skin for more than 24 hours.
- Part of the tick remains in the skin.
- A rash of any kind develops (especially a red-ringed bull’s-eye rash or red dots on wrists and ankles).
- The bite area looks infected (increasing warmth, swelling, pain, or oozing pus).
- Flu-like symptoms, headache, tiredness
- Stiff neck, joint pain or a swollen joint
Our Top Tips to protect your kids from a tick bite
It’s often a relief taking your kids to somewhere they can play and learn with animals, it keeps them busy and brings some calm into your world (always needed when you’re a busy mum). The incidents of Tick bites at Farmer Palmers is incredibly low, (1 case in 2018 and 130,000 visitors). We all love to see the freedom of children running around in shorts and t-shirts in summer but if you are venturing out hiking on moorlands, in forests or woodlands these tips will help.
The best ways to avoid tick bites are to:
- Keeping to footpaths and avoiding long grass and bracken when out walking, especially where livestock have been grazing..
- When playing in wooded areas, kids should wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and tuck pant legs into their socks.
- Wear long trousers and sleeves rather than shorts and t shirts… the less skin you have exposed, the less chance of getting a tick latching on.
- Wearing light-coloured fabrics that may help you spot a tick on your clothes
- Use insect repellent on exposed skin
- Inspecting your skin for ticks, particularly at the end of the day, including your head, neck and skin folds (armpits, groin, and waistband) – remove any ticks you find promptly
- Checking your children’s head and neck areas, including their scalp
- Making sure ticks are not brought home on your clothes
- Keep pets up to date with Frontline or other treatments so that they do not bring ticks into your home.
How do Farmer Palmers try to reduce the risk of contact?
Fortunately, Dorset is not a high risk area. Even so, no matter how small the risk Farmer Palmer’s put your safety first. As it’s something we take very seriously we therefore ensure we
- Keep animals off the grass play areas
- Ensuring our paths are kept mown and tidy.
- Separate the deer living area from the public access area on the Deer Safari
- We have a reporting and monitoring system in place
Where can I get more information of staying safe?
Remember most ticks DO NOT carry Lymes Disease. Public Health England has created a brilliant video if you wish to know more.
And of course, if you have a rash or are feeling unwell in the two weeks after a bite, or are worried you may have picked up an infection…seek out medical advise as soon as possible.
May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a type of bacteria found in animals like mice and deer. Ixodes ticks that feed on these animals can then spread the bacteria to people through their bites. It’s important to know and watch for signs of Lyme disease because ticks are hard to find and it’s easy to miss a tick bite.
The Good News
The good news is that most tick bites are harmless and don’t need medical treatment or lead to Lyme disease. Fortunately it is still a rare disease in the UK, however tick numbers have increased in recent years.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Lyme Disease?
The NHS describes Lyme disease as a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks. Usually within 1-2 weeks of the initial bite signs of infection may occur in that area.
How Is Lyme Disease Treated?
If you have a likely case of Lyme disease, you’ll be prescribed a 2 to 4 week course of antibiotics while your GP waits for the results of a blood test to confirm infection. It can sometimes require two blood tests to detect this. Cases that are diagnosed quickly and treated with antibiotics almost always have a good outcome. A person should be feeling back to normal within several weeks after treatment starts.
Is Lyme Disease Contagious?
Lyme disease is NOT contagious, so it can’t spread from person to person. But people can get it more than once.
So to recap:
- If you notice a tick on your child, or yourself, try to remove it as soon as possible
- If not within 24 hours it is best to see a doctor, especially with little ones.
- Remember most ticks do not carry Lymes disease
- If you, or any of your family ever have a rash, or are feeling unwell in the two weeks after a bite, or you are worried you may have picked up an infection…seek out medical advise as soon as possible. Especially if you’ve been in woodland or countryside where ticks could have been present.
If you have any questions at all, get in touch – we love hearing from you.