Happy Easter everyone!
A time of getting together & celebrating the warming weather. Whilst enjoying the beautiful blossom on the trees & catching up with the dreaded weeding & lawn mowing (how those dandelions grow!), here’s some quick tips on preventing tick-bites & protecting your garden.
Protecting your children:
Look out for tick repellents for sensitive skin or natural products or DEET with lower strength can be used but may need to be applied regularly. Check your children at regular intervals for anything crawling on them as they may be looking for a spot to feed. Remember that ticks can be very tiny, the nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed & adults the size of a sesame seed. They are very flat & may look blackish or red & black when unfed, as they begin to feed they begin to puff up like a raisin or sultana & can change colour to various tones of blues or greys. If you see a tick crawling & flat it is unlikely that it has bitten anyone but do keep a look out for anymore that may have gone unnoticed. Behind the ear, hairline, back of neck, back of knees & even groin area can be favourite places for ticks to hide.
If you see a tick attached to the skin find some fine tipped tweezers & remove gently keeping the tweezers as close to the skin as possible to ensure the head parts are removed cleanly. Wipe the area clean with an antiseptic wipe, place the tick in a clear sealable plastic bag (a freezer bag or similar) & write on it the date of the tick bite. This may be helpful if symptoms do occur. Tick removal tools such as tick twisters are great tools for removing ticks on humans & pets as well. If you have no removal tools or tweezers to hand, you can try fine cotton wrapped as a noose around the base of the tick’s body, again keeping close to the skin to remove the head, as leaving the head behind may cause secondary infection.
If a tick has bitten your child please keep a look out for symptoms. It may take days or weeks for symptoms to develop. Not every tick will be infected but it’s worth taking watchful care anyway to prevent a more serious disease developing further down the line. First signs of disease may be a summertime flu, excessive tiredness when the child is normally lively, feeling of being unwell & achy, a rash that may expand outwards from a central ring & begin to take the shape of a dartboard. Not all patients will notice or have a rash (& sometimes the rash may appear more uniform rather than in rings) so if your child feels unwell after a known tick bite it is worth seeking medical advice. Also if your child has a rash but otherwise has no other symptoms do still seek advice as at this early stage of infection it is highly treatable with antibiotics. (Please note that some reddening may occur at the site of the bite which may just be irritation. A Lyme rash tends to develop days later & begin to spread outwards from the centre)..
If left to spread throughout the body more complications can occur such as developmental problems, severe headaches, difficulty concentrating, poor sleep, neurological symptoms such as tingling & numbness plus muscle aches & joint pains.
We don’t want parents to panic but just to be aware of the dangers of ticks.
Hot spot areas for ticks tend to be in national parks areas (eg Glenveagh, Killarney, Connemara, Portumna & Wicklow) where there are high concentrations of birds, mice, other small mammals, deer, humans & pets. Ticks can be carried by many animals & birds & are attracted to Carbon dioxide so families & their pets can be unwitting hosts to a hungry tick! Please note however that from our own online tick survey that people are reporting ticks in burren land, near lakes as well as gardens, so forested areas are not the only spaces to watch out for ticks. Farm owners are also at risk, as well as hill walkers, campers, hunters, runners & pet walkers too!
Protecting Yourself & Pets:
Pets can be treated with flea & tick repellants however it’s worth checking them regularly as it has been known for pets to still carry ticks on their fur into the house even when treated (from personal experience!) Be careful with cats as some products for using on dogs is highly toxic to cats. For humans, DEET products are recommended however this may not be 100% effective (as reported by a tick researcher in the US) so may need to still be vigilant & check your outer clothes immediately after a walk & underneath clothing as soon as you get home.
Ticks can survive water (they can survive a wash cycle for example) however they struggle with dry heat so a suggestion is to put any clothes that may harbour ticks into a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes. If ticks are found on you or pets, follow the tips in the children’s section above.. It’s recommended whilst out walking to wear light coloured clothing to see any black specks on you that might be ticks, & tuck trousers into socks as ticks can climb up inside your clothing. Tick bites are painless & usually non itchy so remember to keep checking the site of the bite every day for several weeks, as the bulls-eye rash associated with Lyme disease can & may take weeks to develop. If no rash is present but other symptoms occur (such as summertime flu, bell’s palsy (paralysis on one side of the face) or severe meningitis type headaches) do get checked out by the doctor, early diagnosis & treatment is vital to prevent more serious disease. Lyme can develop in stages & worsen over time so even if symptoms are mild initially it’s still worth getting checked out, especially if you have a known tick bite. Record the date of any bites that occurred & if possible keep the tick in a sealed bag or container to show the doc if symptoms do occur..
A great link on tick removal tips available at: http://www.ticktalkireland.org/howtoremoveaticksafely.html
This page has pictures of lyme rash to look out for: http://www.ticktalkireland.org/faq.html#lymerash
Protecting Your Garden:
Ticks are hardy creatures & can survive very cold spells (as long as they have some snow or leaf cover) & can survive very wet conditions but dryness can kill them. To survive they climb up to the end of blades of grasses waiting for hosts to brush by until they start to dehydrate (dessicate) at which point they move back down into the base of the grass to be shaded & retain moisture. This means that lawns kept very short with any leaves & wood piles cleared away should help deter ticks. Also paths around the edge or gravel type borders can help deter them. Plants can help deter ticks such as Lavender, Rosemary, Sage, Marigolds & Rose Geraniums. If possible avoid too much bird food on the ground as this can attract ticks for several reasons, mice may be attracted to the dropped bird food & they can carry ticks, ground feeding birds such as robins & thrushes are a popular way for ticks to hitch a ride & hedgehogs too can bring ticks into the garden as well as squirrels.
A great link on protection is available at: https://ticktalkireland.wordpress.com/lyme-links/prevention/
Permethrin can also be used on clothing (although not directly on skin). It can withstand several washes so ideal for camping or hiking. This site has a selection of different tick repellant products http://www.purpleturtle.co.uk/acatalog/Ticks.html
If you have a permethrin spray be careful near cats as can be very toxic: http://www.icatcare.org/permethrin/owner-info
Lyme Wifey has some great tips also on protecting your garden..
Check out our FAQ page for more info on lyme disease http://www.ticktalkireland.org/faq.html
We have a leaflet available for anyone who would like one. Single copies can be downloaded at http://www.ticktalkireland.org/lymeleafletsept2013.pdf (PDF).
If you can help distribute leaflets in your area at librairies, family centres, youth clubs, vets etc etc feel free to drop us a line using our contact us page.
Tick Awareness Week
Did you know that the Health protection & surveillance centre has marked the week of 19th-23rd May as tick awareness week? Keep an eye out in newspapers for articles. For information available on their site check out http://www.hpsc.ie/hpsc/A-Z/Vectorborne/LymeDisease/
Also the HSE has some information at http://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/L/Lyme-disease/
Our main website has lots of information on symptoms & testing http://www.ticktalkireland.org/index.html
For anyone studying Lyme, doctors who’d like to learn more, students or scientists or interested patients we have an extensive links section on our site covering everything from Lyme & the eyes, Lyme & the heart, Lyme rashes, connections between MS, ME & Parkinson’s, seronegativity, persistence, borrelia (Lyme causing bacteria) under the microscope & so much more https://ticktalkireland.wordpress.com/lyme-links/
How bad is Lyme disease in Ireland?
Cases are cited between 50-100 cases per year. This may seem small, however we feel that due to overlapping conditions with progressive illnesses such as ME, MS & Parkinson’s that many diagnoses may have been missed. Some may not realise that Lyme can be picked up in Ireland & therefore testing is not initiated by the doctor or symptoms may not be tied to a previous tick bite by the patients themselves. Some patients may miss stage one of the disease & go on to suffer with disseminated Lyme years later making diagnosis difficult. Blood testing if done too soon can be false negative (as it may take 4-6 weeks to develop enough antibodies). Those infected a long time may even have a depleted immune system affecting tests results especially if infected with other conditions that can be carried by ticks. Antibiotics can affect results & different strains may throw up different results on the bands used for blood testing, causing confusion when interpreting results. Therefore patients may not be tested at all or false negative results may lead to not all cases being reported or treated.
In studies by Prof Gray in 1996 he found that of ticks collected in Killarney National Park Co Kerry, up to 29% of them were carrying borrelia (that causes Lyme disease). Some people who are bitten maybe carrying the bug without any problem & become silent carriers. However a knock in the immune system such as after a traumatic event (car accident, stressful life event, another illness or even surgery) can cause the infection to bubble up. So we feel that it is worth taking precautions & it’s worth being aware of the possible dangers to protect you & your family!
Last year Tick Talk Ireland’s co-founder Jenny O’Dea wrote a book for children called the Adventures of Luna & Dips. Initially it was a bit of fun to fill a bit of time during sleepless nights(!) but on fruition the story was transformed into a book complete with wonderful illustrations by Dave Farrelly. Having received funding (with huge thanks) we distributed more than 2500 books across schools in Ireland, & some libraries complete with poster & informational pack.
Although we’re out of copies the book is still available to read on the following site: http://www.scribd.com/doc/138970319/Adventures-of-Luna-Dips (registered members can download the copy however it can be read without subscribing just by scrolling down the page to move through the chapters).
We also have a poster available at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/138974973/Luna-Poster?secret_password=1fnt40cczjf4bpwg4g1k
For any parents reading this they may also like our colouring posters available on the following page: https://ticktalkireland.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/if-ticks-could-talk-contents-page/
Are you a Lyme sufferer in Ireland? Or not yet diagnosed but wanting advice? Why not head on down to the Anner Hotel in Thurles on 18th May! 20 or more patients are meeting up for a meal in a private setting.
If you’d like to come & join in we can be emailed via info(AT)ticktalkireland.org (replace AT with @ before sending) & we can forward this onto the organisers for you. Numbers to be in by May 11th.
We have rolling surveys for anyone to complete. These are for members of the public who spot ticks anywhere in Ireland to report where they found them, how many, in what type of location etc. Plus a survey for vets if they come across ticks in animals being brought in, and a survey for those visiting national parks to assess what information they have for the public.
Also a survey for Lyme patients to report back on their symptoms, how they were diagnosed & how long it took for diagnosis. The next set of results should be available later this year. To access our surveys & results so far head on down to http://www.ticktalkireland.org/surveys.html
Jenny O’Dea from Tick Talk & Nicola Seal from the Lymewifey blog in scotland were asked to talk on Katina Makris’ popular Lyme related chat show.
The interview can be listened to at: http://thedrpatshow.com/shows/mak-140402-odea.mp3
Katina is the author of her book Out of the Woods, being a Lyme sufferer herself she supports advocacy & awareness.
Her other radio links including some great lyme specialists & advocates can be found at: http://www.thedrpatshow.com/searchshowsAll.php?search=katina+makris&x=-951&y=-98
Spring is a very busy time of year for ticks (they wake up hungry) & Lyme awareness too! May is Lyme awareness Month across the world. In April, May & June there are conferences taking place in Germany, London & Norway. For more information head on down to: http://lymeywifey.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/a-trio-of-fantabulous-european-lyme.html
This is all our newsy information for the moment. A new blog post will follow during May. Meanwhile we wish you a Happy Easter 🙂