As outdoor enthusiasts many of us are aware of the prevalence of ticks, increasingly so here in Ireland. Unfortunately for me any biting critter loves me! For this reason I have become quite passionate about promoting awareness of ticks and of course not just the temporary pain they cause, but the potentially life long implications of the diseases they can carry. I am not a professional so this information is a taste of what I have gathered, if in doubt do visit your GP and do some research yourself.
When we travel abroad further afield we take precautions according to the local wildlife. Mosquitos, snakes and spiders in the hotter climates, water borne diseases etc too. We buy and wear mosquito nets, take anti malaria medication, douse ourselves in various potions and bring lotions for aftercare along too. If there are innoculations available we take them. At home we tend to be more complacent.
Ticks are present in Ireland and are causing Lymes disease on an ever increasing level. You may have seen the recent Irish TV production about Living with Lyme Disease, unfortunately I can’t find a live link still available, however there is an insightful interview with the camera and production crew who have personal stories of Lyme’s Disease.
Recently there have also been cases of diagnosed Tick borne encephalitis in Ireland previously only seen on the continent. In Kerry and Cork the HSE have reported a ten fold increase in confirmed Lyme’s disease over the past decade. We must take precautions.
So what do they look like?
Well here are some pictures of real Irish ticks ( apologies for the photography) The finger is a child’s finger and these are all of the same tick. You can see how small it is and yet still able to bury itself in the skin.
How do you avoid them?
Cover up is the best precaution, full arm and leg cover, however these creatures are tiny and they can penetrate clothing, especially knitted clothing, like socks where there are small holes in the fabric. An addition of Deet to your clothing and skin is helpful too. There is mention of a product that you can wash clothing in to repel ticks however I have yet to find it available here in Ireland.
Where do you find them?
Well they can be anywhere outside, predominantly carried by deer and large animals, in the earlier stages of the lifecycle they can be carried by smaller creatures such as birds. They tend to drop off their animal hosts onto leaves, trees, ferns etc and as we orienteer through the undergrowth we pick them up and become their new host.
How do you remove them?
Well there are a few myths and a few methods! Do not burn, twist or basically annoy the tick on removal, treat them gently. If you annoy them they are more likely to pass the disease onto you as they discharge their stomach contents into you, their host. Removing multiple ticks is a laborious and time consuming process, so best to prevent!
The tick card is the size of a credit card.
Well the symptoms are so varied, there can be a bull’s eye rash at the bite site and flu like symptoms following, however sometimes they can be so innocuous that they go unnoticed. Recently diagnosed Irish orienteers had symptoms such as nauseous, dizziness, headaches and mild temperature, another only requested a test as they had had exposure to bites, so please beware and remember, if in doubt get checked and get treatment early.
Unfortunately many people remain un-diagnosed and go on to have lifelong problems which may well have been treatable had intervention occurred earlier.
It is vitally important that we, as outdoor sports people familiarise ourselves with the insects, their habits, the signs and symptoms of the disease.
More information can be found here on an Irish website Tick Talk Ireland they have an active facebook account where they post regular articles on ticks and the disease.
There was an interesting article recently in the Irish Examiner.
Deborah Whelan – orienteer CNOC