Be tick-aware this summer

Be tick-aware this summer

Ticks, mosquitos, horseflies, spiders, bees, wasps, ants, are all natural, native creatures that can feel very unwelcome when they sting or bite. But fortunately, they cause no long-term harm to the vast majority of us.

Over the past year, we've noticed a real increase in tick bites among our reserve teams which we put down to the combination of warm and wet weather. Most reserve colleagues have a career marked by assorted bites and stings and accept it as an annoying natural occupational hazard. But I estimate I’ve had three times as many ticks on me in the last 18 months after enjoying the countryside, when compared to the last 40 years.

What is a tick?

A tick is a small arachnid (related to spiders) that feeds on blood - it can be alarming to find one feeding on your body. If you are a dog owner, you may be familiar with ticks and some species will feed on humans too. Very rarely, ticks can transmit Lyme's disease to you, which has serious long term effects.

What should you I do if you spot a tick on your skin?

The first and important thing is not to panic. Don’t just slap it off or squash it, don’t burn it, and don’t cover it in Vaseline. You need to remove it very carefully using fine tweezers or a specialist tick removal tool. The NHS website has excellent instructions and explains symptoms of Lyme’s disease, for early treatment.

Tick on blade of grass

What should I do after I've been bitten?

People react to other insect bites and stings in very different ways. Some lucky folk will barely notice, while others will end up with angry red reactions or serious swelling. The good news is, for most of us, this will fade naturally if you can avoid scratching or poking at it. A cold compress is as good as anything to relieve that itch. Clean the bite or sting site as soon as you can and apply an anti-septic wipe if you have it. Most of the horror stories you hear about involve secondary bacterial infections that could have been avoided with basic hygiene.

If you feel really unwell, see a doctor as soon as you can and always 999 if you suspect an anaphylactic reaction. Don’t go experimenting with homemade remedies, and don’t assume that antihistamine cream will be right for that bite.

How to avoid getting bitten by ticks

Prevention is always, naturally better than a cure. Insect repellent sprays and creams may work. If you are walking through long grass that may hold ticks, wear long trousers and sleeves and tuck your trousers into your socks so the ticks can’t find a surface to latch onto. It’s worth checking for ticks if you have been on a walk through long grass as you may not be aware you’ve been bitten.

There are many things we consider when running and caring for our nature reserves, including natural hazards, but keeping our visitors safe really matters to us. Follow these tips and hopefully you’ll safely enjoy and remember your visit, forgetting the occasional annoying bite as a bug’s lunch.