Two tick bites in the space of two weeks got South Coast Register journalist Damian McGill thinking.
(min cost $8)
Login or signup to continue reading
He thought ‘if I am getting ticks then other people must be as well’.
The tick attacks also raised some questions.
‘Can I get sick or can people, in general, get sick from ticks,” he asked himself as he was digging out a tick from his leg with a pair of tweezers?
Then what about cats and dogs? Are we in for a particularly dangerous tick season for pets because it had been so dry?
So he went off to see a Nowra resident who has Lyme disease, spoke to a veterinary nurse and did what everyone else does and went to Dr Google.
“Walk a day in my shoes”, is the challenge Ash Hudson has for people who don’t believe Lyme disease exists.
Ash was bitten by what she believes was a tick and was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2014.
Much debate surrounds the condition as the Australian Government has not formally recognised the its existence, but sufferers like Nowra’s Mrs Hudson will tell you the condition does indeed exist.
She saw a chronic disease specialist in Sydney, had blood samples taken, which were sent to America for testing.
The results came back positive for Lyme disease.
“It makes me angry when people say there is no such thing as Lyme disease - come live in my world for a day,” she said.
She got sick in 2007 and was diagnosed seven years later.
Ash started getting headaches, muscle pain and things just got worse.
“On a bad day you just sleep, take a lot of painkillers, you have to take lots of baths to help the pain and you just can’t think straight because of the pain. You can’t stand light or the noise and you are sensitive to the environment around you,” she said.
Her sense of smell and taste was also knocked around by the condition.
She has a long list of medical issues that can be traced back to her tick bite.
The good news for Ash and her husband Mitch is the impending birth of their first child together, which seems to have helped her.
“There was a slight chance the pregnancy could reset my body. We are not sure if it the pregnancy has reset my body but it’s helped,” she said.
“I was weaning off painkillers for the last fours years to try and have a baby and then I fell pregnant.
“I am still in a lot of pain but this is the best I felt for a long time.”
Her advice to others not feeling well after a tick bite, was to ask for help/advice immediately.
“Act fast because it [Lyme disease] can develop down the track,” she said.
Drought or no drought - hot or cold weather - nasty ticks are always lurking around, according to the staff from the South Nowra Veterinary Hospital.
South Nowra Veterinary Hospital based vet nurse, Victoria Akehurst, said when it came to ticks, pet owners needed to be vigilant - at all times of the year.
Even in the colder months, ticks can strike.
“Ticks are around all year and we have had a few little cases come in and lucky they were not too bad,” she said.
“Everyone thinks summer is the worst which is to be expected because that is when they are at their most prominent.
“In winter they are still around but might not be as toxic.
“Ticks are out there and there is quite a lot of them there and a lot of people even come in with ticks on themselves.”
The experienced vet nurse said a dry and mild winter may see more ticks coming out earlier.
Her advice was to be on guard all year round and get advice on the best treatment for your pet.
“Ticks can affect pets really quickly and it only takes a couple of days for a tick to grow from less than a millimetre too big suckers up to two centimetres,” she said.
“So people can’t see them when they are so small and it only takes a couple of days after they have attached on that their toxicity gets into an animal's system.
“People don’t notice until their pets get a bit wobbly and the ticks are really big at that stage and there are no reversing things - you have to get them in for help.
“You just can't leave it.”
The good news is tick treatment has advanced over the years and is now much better.
Victoria added it’s now also easier for people, thanks to notifications via electronic devices, to keep up to date with their pet’s tick treatments.
“We have actually seen a decline in the number of tick cases we have had,” Victoria said.
“We still see quite a few animals that come in but luckily they are on tick prevention and so the ticks do die off.”
Victoria said cats could be trickier to treat and best if cats are kept inside in summer.
“Little ticks on little cats can become deadly,” she said.
How does the paralysis tick affect humans?
A tick attaches itself by piercing its sharp mouthparts into skin. It then injects an anticoagulant (a substance that prevents blood from forming clots) saliva which allows it to feed without the blood clotting. In the case of the Paralysis Tick, the saliva may be highly toxic to some animals and, potentially, humans.
Most tick bites pose no medical problems apart from some localised swelling and redness at the bite site if the tick is removed promptly. However, in some cases people can experience more severe conditions such as tick paralysis or allergic reactions including anaphylactic shock. Early symptoms of tick paralysis may include rashes, headache, fever, influenza like symptoms, tenderness of lymph nodes, unsteady gait, intolerance to bright light, increased weakness of the limbs and partial facial paralysis. Tick paralysis, while rare, is usually seen in children rather than adults. Allergic reactions can result in swelling of the throat, and may lead to breathing difficulties or collapse. It is important to seek medical attention quickly if such symptoms occur. If you have had similar symptoms in the past after being bitten by a tick, then it is a good idea to always be prepared.
Some serious tick-borne diseases also occur in Australia including, Queensland tick typhus and Flinders Island spotted fever. There are concerns that other serious illnesses, such as a Lyme disease-like syndrome, may be caused by exposure to Australian ticks, however there is no evidence yet this is the case (Lyme Disease).
Recently a new syndrome known as “tick-induced mammalian meat allergy” has been described, whereby people bitten by the Paralysis Tick, which is found in coastal Eastern Australia, can subsequently develop an anaphylactic reaction to consuming meats and animal by-products such as gelatine. This syndrome has also been described overseas.
How to prevent tick bites?
The best way to prevent tick bites is to avoid tick-infested areas.
If this is not possible, wear appropriate clothing such as:
a long sleeved shirt
long pants tucked into socks
light coloured clothing to make it easier to see ticks on clothes before they attach to the skin
Before entering possible tick infected environments apply an insect repellent containing diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) or picaridin to the skin. The repellent should be applied and reapplied according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Clothing treated with permethrin is also recommended.
Permethrin wash kits for treating clothes can be obtained from outdoor recreational stores and it is important to follow the label directions. Permethrin-treated clothing is considered the most effective means of preventing tick bite in tick infested areas.
All clothing should be removed after visiting tick infested areas and placed into a hot dryer for 20 minutes to kill any tick that could be still on the clothing. The entire body should be then checked for ticks of all sizes and stages, paying particular attention to areas behind the ears and the back of the head or neck, especially on children.
When removing a tick with fine tipped forceps (not household tweezers unless fine tipped forceps are not available), grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upwards with steady pressure and avoid jerking or twisting the tick.
Prior to removal, the tick may be sprayed with an aerosol insect repellent containing pyrethrin or a pyrethroid chemical, although there is currently no evidence to suggest that this is of benefit. Permethrin based creams, which are available from chemists may also be used. Apply at least twice with a one minute interval between applications.
If you have difficulty removing the tick or suffer any symptoms after removal, seek medical attention urgently.
Use only fine tipped forceps and avoid squeezing the body of the tick.
Don’t use folklore remedies such as matches or pins because they will irritate the tick and make it harder to completely remove.
Avoid scratching and do not use irritant chemicals such as methylated spirits or kerosene.
For more information go to http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ohp-tick-bite-prevention.htm
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.