Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures that live in woods, areas with long grass, and sometimes in urban parks and gardens. Tiny as they are, ticks can be pretty dangerous for humans. They can infect people with a number of diseases including Tularemia, Heartland virus and Lyme disease. While Tularemia and Heartland virus have not occurred in Great Britain, the number of people experiencing Lyme disease after a tick bite has increased. This illness is unpleasant for anyone who catches it. But the risks can be especially dangerous for the elderly.
Experts in elderly care say that unusually mild winters across the country in the recent years increased the tick populations and made them particularly strong. They are able to spread further, invading new areas and thriving in places they have not been seen before. As ticks continue to expand their reaches, so do the diseases that they carry, and the number of people who have been infected steadily climbs.
Ticks can be very hard to avoid especially during hot summer months, walking through the woods or in any kind of grassy area, even sitting in a garden with some bushes around. They are small, so they can easily climb onto a person without being detected, biting down and latching on without the hosts even knowing they are there.
We urge our Clients and Carers to watch out and take measures to avoid getting bitten by a tick. As the elderly tend to have weaker immune systems, they face an especially high risk from tick bites. Lyme disease in particular is often not fatal in young adults, but can be for those who are elderly.
So what is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can be spread to humans by infected ticks. It is usually easier to treat if it is diagnosed early. Research show that many cases of this disease last for up to six months.
NHS suggests that a circular or oval shape rash around a tick bite can be an early symptom of Lyme disease in some people.
The rash can appear up to 3 months after being bitten by an infected tick, but usually appears within 1 to 4 weeks. It can last for several weeks.
The rash can have a darker or lighter area in the centre and might gradually spread. It's not usually hot or itchy.
Later stage Lyme can include increased rashes, partial facial paralysis, arthritis and joint pain, irregular heartbeat, brain and spinal cord swelling, nerve pain and short-term memory loss. Having someone with your elderly loved one, such as Live-in Carer, could be a life saving solution.
Live-in Carers stay with your relative or loved one and provide 24/7 care and can spot a tick bite almost immediately and get treatment started as early as possible. When the infection is found early enough, doctors can prescribe an antibiotic that may clear it up fairly quickly. In many cases, however, patients stay on medication for a few weeks.
Even after treatment, Lyme disease does not always go away completely. As many as 15 to 30 percent of elderly patients who survive Lyme develop a chronic disease as a result.
Tick bites are not always painful. You may not notice a tick unless you see it on your skin. Elderly may not be able to carry out a self-check including bending around the body to spot signs of ticks. That is why it is important to have someone help them to this. Domiciliary Carers regularly check for ticks on Clients clothes and skin, and on pets after being outdoors during the summer months.
Not all ticks in the UK carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. But it is still important to be aware of ticks and to safely remove them as soon as possible, just in case!
The best way to avoid getting Lyme disease is to fight the risks for tick bites. People who live in tick-prone areas need to take precautions when they go outside in risk areas. While ticks are most common in forests or areas of tall grass, they travel easily, and can be found in private gardens too. People who like spending time outdoors are likely to be bitten by a tick, and should wear long sleeves and trousers whenever possible and use a bug spray which can be picked up at most chemists and supermarkets. After coming back inside they should check their clothes, hair and skin for the parasites.
If there is a dog living with you or your loved one, they should be treated with a tick repellent and checked when they come indoors as well - speak to your vet about the best solution for your dog.
Live-in Carers keep gardens neat and free of plant debris. While pesticides can be a powerful tool against ticks, it is important to only use products that are still safe for humans and pets.
Although unpleasant and sometimes dangerous, taking steps to ensure you are protected against ticks will ensure you have a pleasant summer without the worry of getting ill!