We hear a lot about checking our animals for paralysis ticks, especially for dogs. It often gets missed that we should be looking on our own bodies too. As humans, there are many more species of ticks that can bite and infect us with numerous pathogens, bacteria and viruses. We know in the hotter humid months, there is more tick activity, but they are around at any time of the year. If you go into a grassy, marshy area, you are in their zone. With CK Health being located in Newcastle NSW, we understand being in a hot spot for ticks. So it’s of special importance to us that people are aware of prevention and treatment of tick bites.
Tick bites in Australia, in particular, can result in various diseases and infections with symptoms ranging from paralysis, anaphylaxis, meat allergies, seizures, fatigue, autoimmune disorders and rashes. It’s also worth noting that Queensland tick typhus is not limited to just Queensland, and has been found in Southern rural NSW.
The most infamous and concerning consequence of ticks is Lyme disease (aka tick-borne disease). Although there is a long history of not recognising Lyme disease in Australia, the government is now beginning to acknowledge the illness and its transmission via ticks. However, the testing is expensive and the treatment limited. With many conventional doctors not fully understanding this illness, our best course of action is prevention and, if bitten, knowing what to do.
How to prevent a tick bite
As you plan for any outdoor activity in a grassy area, such as bushwalking, exploring wetland areas in particular, or even gardening, it’s important to cover up. Wear a light-coloured long-sleeved top and tuck long pants into socks. Most government websites recommend using DEET, a highly effective tick repellent (however, its ingredients include a neurotoxin, and for that reason we prefer natural alternatives). MosiGuard, a natural tick prevention spray and roll-on, is very effective, made of more gentle ingredients and proudly stocked at CK Health.
After your activity, run a lint roller over your clothes and pick up any ticks you might see crawling on your clothing. Be sure to change immediately, wash your clothes and place in the dryer to destroy any residual ticks. Have a shower or bath and do a thorough tick check.
Places to pay special attention to are: the scalp, behind the ears, arm pits, in-groin, legs and neck. (However, they will attach anywhere, so do a full body scan). Some ticks are as small as a pinhead, and others might look like a scab or birthmark.
Keep your yard safe for the kids by keeping your grass short and using a barrier of woodchips or gravel between grassed areas and bushland, and don’t leave piles of leaves around. Also, keeping chickens as pets will keep ticks down.
If ticks are really problematic, consider placing tick tubes around your yard.
How to remove a tick
If you do find a tick on you or your child, don’t panic. Calmly remove all of the tick, including the head (this is very important).
Small ticks can be killed while they are still embedded using LYclear; a cream normally used for scabies treatment. Just apply, wait a little while, and the tick will retract and wipe off.
For larger ticks, you can use Wart OFF spray and freeze them off. Then, after a few minutes, you can twist them out with tweezers. If you are only using tweezers, you need to pull upwards. However, this method is not encouraged due to the risk of leaving the head embedded. Avoid squeezing the body of the tick as you do this.
What to do after the tick is removed
Keep an eye out for reactions. Depending on what sort of tick it is, your symptoms can be a rash, fever, weakness, paralysis, or swelling of lymph nodes. Although the ‘bullseye rash’ is often linked to tick borne illness, not all people will get it as an indicator.
If your tick bite was a paralysis tick, you may need to have a blood test and require hospital care.
At home care for tick bites includes:
1. Clean the area with an alcohol wipe.
2. Cover the bite with a poultice of bentonite clay, charcoal, or manuka honey to help draw toxins out. Cover with a bandaid.
3. Begin to take the herb astragalus to help the body fight virus and infection.
4. Take homeopathic ledum for bite wounds. (It’s also great for mozzie bites!)
If you have developed the bullseye rash or are experiencing strong side effects of the tick bite, then talk to your doctor about using doxycycline as a front line treatment for bacterial infections. Make sure you use a good probiotic at the same time (taken two hours apart), to help your gut health while taking antibiotics.
What are the symptoms of a tick making you sick
It really depends on the tick and on the bacteria. A tick that has infected you with Queensland Tick Typhus can have a distinct plaque (scab) at the bitten area, and you may develop fever, lethargy, go off food, and develop joint pain. A paralysis tick can give you a headache or rash, can make you unsteady on your feet and cause paralysis. Lyme-like illness is harder to diagnose, as it can have no symptoms after a bite. One third of people will develop the bullseye rash, some will just have swelling around the bite or in the lymph nodes. Other symptoms can develop within months and worsen over time, including neurological symptoms, pain, fatigue, seizures, memory loss, and it can result in death.
This study talks about the difficulty in diagnosing tick-bourne illness in Australia.
How to test for Lyme Disease in Australia
There are a few places that test for it in Australia; the problem is accuracy and cost. The gold standard is Armin labs in Germany, that costs a hefty $1000.
We use and recommend Austbio, a Sydney based lab, to clients who we consult with prior to testing to ensure they are having the right tests and that testing is warranted. If you would like more information about our work with Lyme-like illness then please book an appointment with Cody, our expert in tick-borne illnesses.