Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Take care to avoid a summer menace

Summer’s here and we’re all much keener to get out in the great outdoors. While there are so many positives about Scotland’s outdoors playground, including fantastic scenery, the opportunity for adventures and improved physical and mental well-being, there is one less than attractive aspect of summer outdoors – ticks.

In recent years, there have been reports of a rise in the number of ticks, which sadly carry Lyme disease. However if you're aware of the summer menace and take the right steps to avoid them, ticks may never ever cause you a problem.

What are ticks?

The tiny, fly-like creatures feed on the blood of animals, and can also feed on human skin.

Young ticks, which are called nymphs, are about the size of a poppy seed, so they are not easy to see with the naked eye.

Where do ticks hang out?

In Scotland, ticks are found in woodland, on moorland and even in urban parks. There are more in the Highlands areas than in the south of the country.

Why are ticks to be avoided?

Some ticks carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. If an infected tick bites a human, the bacteria can make people ill. The most common sign of Lyme disease is a rash spreading out from the bite, usually after one to two weeks. The rash usually looks like a bull's eye and it can become very large. Symptoms can include feeling like you have the flu.

In severe cases, Lyme disease can cause long-term joint pain and nerve damage.

But before you become too alarmed remember that if treated early, your chances of contracting Lyme disease are low.

How to avoid becoming infected with Lyme disease

If you’re out and about on Scotland’s hills or moorlands ensure you wear a long-sleeved shirt and long trousers tucked into socks.

Wearing light-coloured clothing can make it easier to see ticks and remove them.

Some insect repellents, such as a product containing DEET, can help to ward off ticks in the first place.

Inspect your skin frequently and remove any ticks.

Make sure you give your skin a thorough check after a day of walking. Be alert in particular in skin folds such as the armpits, groin, waistband area, under breasts and behind knees.

Also check that pets do not bring ticks into the home on their fur.

What to do if you spot a tick on your skin

Most ticks do not carry Lyme disease, and a tick usually has to stay on your skin for at least 24 hours before there's much risk of it making you ill.

But if you do spot a tick on your skin, make sure you remove it promptly. It’s important that you do not shock the tick into burrowing further into your skin so the advice is to use a “tick remover”, such as a Tick Twister.

Also ensure that all of the tick is removed at once. Clean the area with an anti-bacterial cream.

Simply knowing about ticks, and their potential danger, means you are far more likely to avoid any contact with the tiny menaces.

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