With spring weather bringing everyone into the great outdoors, residents and visitors to Hampshire are being urged to be ‘Tick Aware’, especially when walking in wooded areas or long grass where ticks can attach themselves to people or animals as they pass by.
These tiny insects, which can transmit bacteria such as Lyme disease, can be found throughout the year but are most active between spring and autumn. They are typically found in woodland, grassland, moorland or heathland but are also found in urban parks and gardens.
Keeping to footpaths and avoiding long grass when out walking is the best way to avoid being bitten by ticks. Other advice to walkers in areas known to have a high tick population such as the New Forest is to:
• Wear appropriate clothing (a long-sleeve shirt and trousers tucked into your socks)
• Use an insect repellent
• Wear light coloured fabrics that may help you spot a tick on your clothes
• Inspect your skin for ticks, particularly at the end of the day, including your head, neck and skin folds (armpits, groin and waistband)
• Check your children’s head and neck areas, including their scalp (skin on top of their head)
• Check that pets do not bring ticks into your home in their fur
If you do get bitten by a tick, removing it quickly and correctly can help to reduce any potential risk. The only safe way to remove a tick is to use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, or an easy-to-use device which can be purchased from pharmacies or vets. Then:
• Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull upwards slowly and firmly, as mouthparts left in the skin can cause a local infection
• Once removed, apply antiseptic to the bite area and keep an eye on it for several weeks for any changes
• Contact your GP if you begin to feel unwell or develop a circular red skin rash, often described as a bull’s-eye rash, and remember to tell them that you were bitten by a tick