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Stepping Out Smart by Avoiding Ticks

As the weather warms up, many of us look forward to spending more time walking and hiking on trails and in parks. However, a tiny menace awaits—Ixodes Ricinus, the blacklegged tick. Also known as the Deer Tick, these crafty parasites cling to vegetation waiting to latch onto passing animals or people, looking for a meal of blood. While going unnoticed, they can transmit Lyme disease, an illness you’ll want to avoid. Let’s look into stepping out smart by avoiding ticks. Protect yourself with some tick smarts before heading out on your next walk.

stepping out smart by avoiding ticks

Ticks and Lyme Disease

Blacklegged ticks in their nymph stage are most likely to pass on Lyme. These poppy seed-sized insects are efficient transmitters of the corkscrew-shaped Lyme bacterium. Infected ticks secrete the bacteria into the skin when they insert their feeding tube.

What Are the Symptoms?

If a tick infected with the Lyme bacterium has fed on you, a rash might emerge on your skin around the bite within three to 30 days. The infamous ‘bullseye’ circular rash, called erythema migrans, appears in about 70-80% of infected people. Flu-like symptoms like fever, headache, stiff neck, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue often accompany the rash.

Without treatment, more severe joint swelling and pain, heart palpitations, and neurological issues involving numbness, paralysis, and memory problems can occur. See a doctor right away if you experience any of these warning signs of Lyme after spending time outdoors. Prescription antibiotics at an early stage can treat the infection effectively.

When walkers return from wooded areas or fields with tall grass, they must perform thorough tick checks over every inch of exposed skin. Look carefully in warm folds around armpits, the groin, back of knees, scalp, and ears. Tiny young ticks are easy to miss.

Stepping Out Smart by Avoiding Ticks

The best defence to avoid close encounters with these disease-carrying freeloaders is to minimise exposure of unprotected skin by wearing trousers and long-sleeved shirts. Stick to trails and avoid sitting on logs or in tall grass. Apply a DEET repellent on exposed areas of skin. After returning from a walk in an infested area, immediately put clothes in the tumble dryer on high heat to kill stragglers. Check your body closely and document any tick finds. Prompt removal within 24 hours using pointy tweezers can stop disease transmission. If you remove a tick that has bitten you it can also be a good idea to bag in and put it in the freezer for later examination by the NHS if Lyme symptoms appear.

Ticks may be small, but the illnesses they can transmit pack a serious punch. With vigilance, preventative measures, and quick tick removal, walkers can continue to roam the landscapes they enjoy—without unwelcome fellow travellers tagging along.

Ian Lancaster, Walks & Strolls Coordinator

Follow this link to learn about tick removal

Follow this link to the NHS Lyme Disease information page