Experts advise vigilance against disease carrying ticks - a guide to avoiding tick bites

Incidences of ticks, tiny parasites that feed on both animal and human blood, are on the rise in the UK, experts have warned.

Ticks making their way to UK

A variety of ticks, which are Arachnida (a classification that includes spiders) are already found in both urban and rural areas year-round in the UK. However, relaxations in pet passport regulations have seen the import on dogs of ‘European Brown Dog Ticks’ (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) in the UK, which pose an additional risk to both pets and their owners as they can complete their entire life cycle indoors (research referenced in 1 below). 

Lyme Disease and symptoms

A number of ticks are capable of transmitting infections such as Lyme Disease which affects at least 3,000 Brits every year. Caused by the Borrelia bacteria, there is currently no vaccine to prevent the disease.

Early symptoms can comprise a ‘bulls eye’ skin rash around the bite, and ‘flu-like’ symptoms such as headache, weakness, muscle pain, fever and exhaustion. Longer term, chronic effects can include memory loss, numbness and joint problems. With this latest influx of ticks, experts are urging people to protect themselves against tick bites.

Although the Brown Dog Tick bringing other diseases across the channel is a significant threat, the UK already has a growing population of ticks well established in our countryside, suburbs and towns. It is vital that we become more aware of ticks and protect ourselves, our children and our pets from the diseases that they can carry.
— Stella Huyshe-Shires of Lyme Disease Action

Tick bite prevention tips

As well as reading, 6 ways to avoid tick bites, here's a summary of tick bite prevention tips.

  1. Take extra care in wooded areas and dense undergrowth where ticks can thrive
  2. Apply a thin, even layer of an effective repellent. Mosi-guard Natural with its active ingredient - Citriodiol® - has been proven effective against a wide range of tick species, including those that carry Lyme disease.  A single application provides long lasting protection from ticks and other biting insects (research referenced in 2 and 3 below). 
  3. Cover up with long clothing especially on legs and arms and tuck trousers into socks.
  4. Check yourself (and pets) carefully for ticks after being outdoors, especially warmer parts of your body, i.e. behind the knees
  5. Remove any ticks carefully, as soon as possible with a tick remover. Never compress the tick’s body or leave the mouthparts in the skin as this increases the chance of infection

The Lyme Disease Action website is a great resource for further information.

Research

  1. National Archives
  2. Trongokit et al South East Asian J Trop Med Public Health Vol 36 No 6 November 2005 (p1423 – 1431)
  3. In preliminary studies conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Mosi-guard Natural® products provided 90% protection against the Brown Dog Tick, making it an effective naturally-based alternative to DEET based products.