It’s a pretty nasty feeling having something sink in its teeth and suck the blood out of you.
And it’s an even nastier feeling if that something leaves behind a dangerous disease.
Ticks are often associated with dogs and cats but there is a real risk of finding the parasite on your own skin as well.
In some countries, that might not be such a problem (Cuba for instance) but here in Britain and in America there is a chance of contracting lyme disease..
That’s not the only disease either – here is everything you need to know.
Back to basics. What is a tick?
Ticks are actually arachnids – but rather than your standard eight legged spider, ticks are parasitic.
They range in size quite a bit, from those the size of a pin head to great big ones the size of marbles (yuck).
In terms of colour, ticks tent to be a reddish brown, black or if engorged with blood a greenish blue.
Where do they tend to bite?
Ticks love moist hairy bits and tend to latch on to people in their armpits, scalp and (sorry) groin areas.
Once they sink their teeth in they’ll start sucking your blood – and they’ll stay there for as long as ten days before dropping off.
Symptoms of a tick bite
The one big symptom is a tick hanging off your skin with its head stuck below the surface.
Other symptoms include:
1) Pain or swelling
2) Burning sensation at the bite site
4) In severe cases they can cause difficulty breathing
What diseases can ticks carry?
The main disease associated with tick bites tends to be lyme disease – but this is only in certain countries and certain types of tick.
Lyme disease is usually carried in deer ticks or black-legged tick that feed on deer and mice.
Lyme disease IS present in some ticks in the UK but an infected tick must have been on a person’s skin for 24 to 48 hours for the infection to spread. Many people who have contracted Lyme disease usually having no recollection of having a tick bite.
But that isn’t the only disease ticks can spread.
Other diseases that ticks carry include the Powassan virus, which causes encephalitis, anaplasmosis and babesiosis.
Lyme Disease symptoms
There are three stages of infection with a rash, called erythema migans, around the site of the bite at first. This rash, which can vary in appearance and sometimes looks like a bruise, usually disappears after four weeks.
After this time, as bacteria begins to spread throughout the body, the person can experience flu like symptoms including chills, fever, headaches, fatigue and a sore throat. Sometimes numbness can occur.
If an infected person isn’t treated later stage symptoms can include swelling of the brain, heart rhythm problems arthritis, short term memory loss, numbness and severe headaches.
How to avoid getting a tick bite
It’s all about wearing repellents such as DEET on arms and legs as well as wearing long sleeves and trousers in long grass.
With children under two, they should be kept out of long grass where ticks could be lurking.
As lyme disease takes a while to get contracted, it is important to always check over yourself and children for ticks after spending time in areas where ticks might be.
How to remove a tick
Forget burning it off, trying to pop it with a pin or painting it with nail polish – instead use a pair of tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull it out.
The head can sometimes get left behind so try to get this out whole.