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Tick-check season is here. NHS Western Isles wants to remind people living and visiting the Western Isles to take precautions to prevent being bitten by ticks and potentially exposed to Lyme disease. 

Isabell Mac Innes, Health Protection Nurse for NHS Western Isles, said: “We are coming into one of the busiest times of the year for tick activity.  This is important because of the diseases, such as Lyme disease, that ticks can transmit to people. We want to encourage everyone to enjoy the outdoors and all that the Western Isles has to offer.  However, if you or your family are out and about, particularly in areas of rough grass and undergrowth, make sure you know how to protect yourself from being bitten and how to check each day for ticks.”  

Ticks don’t jump or fly, but wait until an animal or person brushes past to climb on, so here are some simple steps to avoid coming into contact with ticks: 

  • Keep exposed skin to a minimum, wear long sleeves and tuck trousers into socks 
  • Wear light coloured clothing so ticks are easier to spot and brush off 
  • Walk on paths, avoid brushing against vegetation 
  • Take care in areas with dense vegetation 
  • Use appropriate insect repellents (it will say on the packaging that it works for ticks). 

When you’ve been out 

  • Brush your clothing (and pets) before going indoors. 
  • Once home, remove clothing on a hard surface  
  • Checking your skin by looking and feeling for ticks. 
  • Pay special attention to areas that are difficult to see such as the back of knees, armpits and the back of the neck/ hairline in children 
  • Some tick bites can result in infection so it is important to remove ticks as soon as possible 
  • Ticks can be removed safely with a tick removal tool, available from local vets and some shops. 

t is important to check for ticks after spending time outdoors.  Image 1 highlights where you should check on your body. 

Sites to check for ticks 

If you find a tick attached, it is important to remove it quickly and correctly. Don’t try to pull the tick off as that is liable to leave the mouthparts behind.   

Removal is best achieved using one of the methods in Image 2. A plastic tick removal device that looks like either a small claw hammer or credit card works well. These are available in many rural shops throughout the Western Isles  

Usage of a tick removal tool   

What to look out for:  

  • Not all ticks carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. 
  • It usually takes more than 24 hours for the tick to deliver bacteria into the human bloodstream so prompt removal of ticks greatly reduces the risk of being infected. 
  • Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and often a skin rash that is round and/or looks like a bull’s-eye (Image 3). 
  • Anyone who develops this rash should contact their GP for diagnosis and possible treatment. 
  • Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics, especially if diagnosed early on in the disease 
  • Undiagnosed Lyme disease can develop more serious complications and be harder to treat effectively. 

Typical ‘bull’s eye’ rash of Lyme disease