You could be more at risk of being bitten by a tick than you might think. The majority of people here in the UK don’t realise that bites from ticks here in the UK can cause serious illness, but the truth of the matter is that they can cause some nasty infections and diseases such as Lyme’s Disease.
As you read on you will discover that there is a right and wrong way to remove ticks that have become attached to your skin. You can, if you live and/or work here in London, opt to use our private walk-in services here at Broadgate Clinic London Wall
What are ticks?
Ticks are parasitic insects. They survive by feeding on the blood of their hosts. A female tick that has not gorged on blood is only about 3mm in size. The female is larger than the male. To give you an idea of scale, a 3mm female is similar in size to a single sesame seed. However, when fully gorged (which is when many people spot them on their pets), they expand in size up to about 11mm. It takes several days for an adult tick to fully gorge itself and reach this sort of size.
There are over 20 species of tick here in the UK of which 4 are more likely to attach themselves to human hosts. One is known by a variety of names including: Castor Bean Tick, the Deer Tick, the Sheep Tick, and/or the Wood Tick; another is the Hedgehog Tick; and another the Ornate Cow or Marsh Tick.
Normally any type of tick seeks out an animal host, but if a human is close by, the signals (body warmth and carbon dioxide) offer similar attractions, and they will choose him/her as their incidental host.
Tick bite symptoms
There are various signs and symptoms that indicate that you have been bitten by a tick.
- Ticks typically cling on long after they have finished gorging themselves, so getting sight of a tick near the bite area is a common and sure indication.
- There may be pain and/or swelling near the bite area.
- Inflammation of the skin around the bite area(s)
- Blisters forming around the bite area
If the tick bite actually carries a disease (referred to as a tick-borne disease), other symptoms may be forthcoming.
Tick-borne diseases and symptoms
The most common tick-borne diseases that humans can develop from a tick bite include:
- Lyme disease (also known as Borreliosis)
- Rocky mountain spotted fever
- Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis
- Tick-Borne Encephalitis and Louping Ill Disease
Symptoms of Lyme disease
Every year there are somewhere between 2000 and 3000 new cases of lines recorded here in the UK. If it’s diagnosed and treated early, treatment is effective. If however it goes on treated there is a risk of developing severe, long-lasting symptoms.
Initial symptoms can include:
- A red rash around the bite that eventually becomes shaped like a bull’s-eye
- Body aches
If Lyme disease is not treated early, more serious symptoms will occur. These symptoms include:
- Numb limbs
- Paralysed facial muscles
- Diminished memory capacity
- diminished concentration ability
- Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart)
- Pericarditis (inflammation of the heart sac)
- Heart failure
Symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
The symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever usually manifest themselves somewhere between 5 and 10 days after you’re bitten. Symptoms include:
- Severe headache
- High fever
- Rash on the wrists and ankles
Symptoms of Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis
The earl symptoms of these two diseases can appear anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks after an infected tick bite. They include:
- A flu-malaise
- Abdominal pain
- Acute weight-loss
- Haemorrhaging and renal failure (only in the late stages of a severe infection)
Symptoms of Babesiosis
Babesiosis is malaria-like disease. Infections can be mild or severe. In the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune system, this infection can prove fatal. Symptoms may take anywhere from 1 to 9 weeks to materialise and they can include:
- Blood in urine
Symptoms of Bartonellosis
A Bartonellosis infection can be anything from mild to severe and in some cases, albeit very rare, it can prove fatal. Typical symptoms can include:
- Appetite loss
- Inflammation of the lymph nodes (particularly those around the head, neck and upper limbs,)
Symptoms of Tick-Borne Encephalitis and Louping Ill
These diseases hit you in 2 waves. The initial infection takes anywhere from 6 to 14 days to manifest itself. It can be asymptomatic (show no symptoms) but if symptoms do present, they can include:
- Common cold-like symptoms
These initial symptoms can last for between and 4 days. The second wave of the disease, which occurs after a remission period of up to 8-days, is much more serious. The virus invades the central nervous system and causes one of 3 illnesses: meningitis (an inflammation of the membrane which surrounds the brain and the spinal cord), encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain itself), or meningo–encephalitis (an inflammation to both the brain and meninges). The symptoms of these diseases include:
- Headache (with intolerance to bright light)
- Hyperacusis (intolerance toward noise)
- Stiff neck
Luckily most tick bites do not carry the above mentioned diseases and symptoms do not progress beyond those listed the section entitled “Tick bit symptoms” near the beginning of the article.
How to remove a tick
It’s important to remove a tick in the correct way. If you don’t any of the following can happen:
- The mouthparts of tick could be left in your skin
- You might compress the tick’s body
- You might puncture the tick’s body
- You might cause injury and irritation to the tick
Your initial reaction may be one of why should you worry about harming the tick? However there are some good reasons and they include:
- If you leave the tick’s mouth behind in your skin it could cause a localised infection and in severe cases this may result in abscesses forming, or possibly even septicaemia developing
- Squeezing or compressing the tick’s body may cause the tick’s body fluids (which could contain infected organisms) to be injected into your bloodstream.
- If the body of the tick is punctured, it may result in disease carrying fluids dropping onto either the host or the person carrying out the tick removal
- If you cause injury to the tick it could regurgitate infected fluids back into the host
There are only 2 recommended ways of removing an attached tick:
Removing a tick with a fine-tipped tweezers
It’s important to use the right type of tweezers for tick removal in order to avoid damaging, squeezing or irritating the tick for the reasons discussed above. Here is the procedure to follow:
- Grip the tick in the end of the following tips pliers is close to the skin of the host as possible and then pull straight upwards with a gentle but steady pressure. It’s important not to twist the tweezers because this may result in leaving the tick’s mouthparts behind.
- Don’t squeeze the body of the tick with the tweezers as this will result in squeezing the tick’s body fluids back into your bloodstream.
- Never tried to remove the tick with your bare hands. This could result in infected organisms entering your bloodstream through a break in your skin or touching your eyes, mouth or nostrils.
- Once the tick has been removed, the bite area should be washed with an antiseptic solution. Don’t forget to wash your hands too.
Professional tick removal by Broadgate clinic London wall
If you live and/or work here in the city of London and have found the tick and are concerned about removing it yourself, you can pop into Broadgate Clinic London Wall to have it removed by one of our clinicians. This will present you with the best solution for avoiding any infection that may occur if you were to damage the tick by removing it yourself.
You can use our walkin clinic London Wall facility without having to make a prior appointment to have the tick removed; be tested for any infections, and then be treated if necessary. So, if you have a busy working schedule, you can call in at a time most convenient to you between 08:00 and 18:30 Mondays to Thursdays, or 08:00 to 17:30 on Fridays