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Everything you need to know about ticks

Tick bites can cause serious health problems, but do you know how to avoid them and what to do if you are bitten?

Ticks are related to spiders and there are many species of tick in the UK, though sheep ticks are the most likely to bite humans.

They are around the size of a poppy seed when they bite, so are very hard to see. You might not notice a tick bite as they aren’t usually painful. However, some people will suffer swelling or blistering and itchiness.

Ticks are generally found in any areas with deep or overgrown vegetation, where they have access to animals on which to feed. Although they are common in woodland or heath areas, ticks can also be found in parks or gardens – and by brushing against something they’re on, you can inadvertently help them climb onto your skin.

What to do if you are bitten

If you find a tick on your skin, you’ll need to remove it as you’re more likely to become infected if the tick is attached to your skin for more than 24 hours.

It’s important to remove ticks properly with a tick-removal tool or fine-tipped tweezers to avoid any part of the tick remaining and causing infection. Not all ticks carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, but those that do can transfer it to humans.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

In the early stages, Lyme disease can cause a distinctive circular rash at the site of the bite and/or flu-like symptoms (such as tiredness, muscle/joint pain, fever, headaches and neck stiffness).

If not treated early, in some cases Lyme disease can lead to more serious symptoms such as problems affecting the nervous system or heart. Find out more about Lyme disease and when to see your GP at www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Lyme-disease/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Reduce your risk of tick bites

Keep to paths and avoid walking through undergrowth.

Wear long-sleeved tops and tuck your trousers into your socks. Light-coloured clothes also make it easier to spot ticks if they’ve found their way onto you.

Check yourself and other family members – including pets – for any ticks when returning from a countryside walk. Adults tend to be bitten around the legs, while small children are usually bitten above the waist.

Lyme Disease Action advises checking children’s hairline and scalp.

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