When the weather gets warmer, we want to head outside. But this is also the time when ticks become active. If you’ve been bitten by a tick, you need to know how to remove it and when to see your GP.
Ticks like warm, moist skin. Make sure you inspect the following areas carefully:
- Backs of knees
- Inner elbows
Why do I need to remove ticks?
Ticks can transmit infections. To prevent infection, ticks should be removed immediately. It takes a while for the bacteria that cause Lyme disease to be transmitted. The bacteria enter the human body in secretions emitted by the ticks, which means that you are unlikely to be infected in the first 8 to 24 hours. By contrast, the tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) virus enters the body when the tick bites you, because the pathogens are contained in the tick’s saliva glands.
The tick vaccine is only effective for preventing tick-borne encephalitis (TBE); it does not prevent Lyme disease.
Learn more about the symptoms and progression of Lyme disease from our blog.
What happens during a tick bite
Ticks feed by penetrating your skin and extracting blood. Their mouth parts are made up of cutting organs, with which they cut the skin to access the blood supply, and the hypostome, which they insert into the incision to suck out the blood. The hypostome is anchored in the surrounding tissue with small barbs.
How to remove ticks safely
To completely remove a tick, you will need to use tweezers, a tick card or a tick pen. Take hold of the tick’s head and pull it out slowly. Check that you have removed the whole tick and that no mouth parts are left in the wound. Lastly, disinfect the area.
What to remember when removing a tick:
- Pull the tick out in a straight line. Do not twist.
- Always place the tweezers around the head, not the body.
- Don’t try to remove ticks with your fingers: that increases the risk of infection, because you could crush the tick, which could cause the tick’s saliva and contents of its intestines to enter the wound.
- Do not try to burn the tick off or soak the tick in oil or alcohol.
Tick bite: when do I need to see my GP?
In most cases, there is no need to see a doctor after being bitten by a tick. However, in the following cases, you will need to visit your GP:
- You are unable to remove the tick, or fail to remove all of it.
- After removing the tick, a red circular rash develops around the bite.
- You experience flu-like symptoms a few days later.
- The tick bite becomes infected and begins to fester.
I didn’t notice a tick bite
Once the tick is no longer attached to your skin, it can be difficult to spot a tick bite. There is no way of telling whether you have a tick bite or a mosquito bite. Disinfect the wound and monitor the area over the next few days. If you notice any of the symptoms described in this article, you should see a doctor.