Back to Top

Animal Tick Bites

Cycletourer logoIf you are like us and enjoy wild camping or off-road cycling along rough trails or tracks through forests and grassy heaths and also if you enjoy a picnic sitting by the side of the road there is a good chance that you may encounter animal ticks. These ticks are more prevalent in areas where there are livestock such as sheep and areas with wild animals such as foxes, badgers, hedgehogs and deer, each of which carries its own type of tick. These various species of tick can be anything from 3 or 4mm across to as small as a poppy seed.

These blood sucking little critters climb up vegetation and wait for any passing animal to then cling on to. Once the tick has found its way onto the host it will move to a warm moist area. On a human this could be the groin, the armpit or the back of the knee although we have removed ticks from our backs. The picture to the right is of a tick that I picked up in Denmark, it was on the inside of my upper right arm. Ticks have a sharp proboscis which they use to bite into the skin to then suck blood off the host. The host is generally unaware of the tick due to the tick injecting a form of natural anaesthetic as it sucks and the tick will stay attached to you until it is fully gorged with blood when it will then fall off.

It is important as a cycle tourist to be aware of ticks and remove them immediately as unfortunately some ticks can potentially carry several nasty diseases such as Lyme Disease or Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).

Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection which is caused by the infected tick passing on the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi to the host. If untreated with antibiotics this infection can cause long term chronic problems such as arthritis, muscle pain and potential nerve damage. If you have been bitten by a tick keep an eye on the area as a red circular rash can appear even after 3 or 4 weeks after the bite. If after you have been bitten you suffer from any flu like symptoms such as a fever, muscle or join pain, headaches or general tiredness you should see your local GP immediately.

You can find out more information on Lyme Disease from the following sites:

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a viral infection that is normally mild and usually requires no treatment, but in some cases, it can cause a more serious case of encephalitis or meningitis. Currently the virus is not found in the UK, although if you are thinking of travelling to other countries in Europe you will need to consider the risk, you can find a map of the European countries that currently have cases of TBE here. To prevent you catching TBE you can get vaccinated against it with a series of inoculations which will last you for 3 years.

You can find out more information on Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) from the following sites:

How to prevent getting bitten by ticks

  • Avoid contact with vegetation where possible.
  • You could consider wearing long-sleeved shirts as well as long cycling trousers tucked into your cycling socks (if you are cycling in warm temperatures this isn’t always practical).
  • You could choose light-coloured fabrics to make it easier to spot the ticks.
  • You could consider applying insect repellents, DEET containing preparations will deter ticks.
  • If you are cycling off-road in potential tick areas check your skin regularly and make a thorough inspection of the scalp and warm areas such as the back of the neck at the hair line, the arm pits, behind your knees, in the groin area and under folds of skin such as at the waist. It is helpful if you have a partner who can check your back as well.
  • Check your clothes for ticks so they don't pass on to your skin.

How to remove ticks

It is important to use a special tick removal tool or tweezers to remove ticks. Do not try and scrape them off with your finger nails as you do not want to squeeze the tick and force its guts into your skin or leave the ticks proboscis in your skin which could cause infection. There are several inexpensive tick removal tools available from most pharmacies or on the net. We have picked up several ticks on our tours over the years so we always carry a couple of the small plastic tick removal tools in our First Aid kit. They are simple to use and with a quick twist the ticks are easily removed. Once the tick is removed you will need to kill the tick, the simplest way is to shake it off the removal tool into a piece of folded paper or card, then squeeze the paper or card between your fingers or by pressing down onto it on a flat surface. It is a good idea to keep the killed tick as if any symptoms of Lyme Disease or TBE do become apparent later on the GP may want it, so it can be tested.

A Youtube video showing just how easy it is to remove a Tick with the right tool.