When you’re enjoying a great walk in the hills or countryside, it probably feels like nothing can bring down your mood. The sun is shining, your legs are feeling great, and those new hiking boots have certainly cured your blisters. But then you notice a sharp pain in your leg, you look down, and see that you’ve fallen victim to a tick bite.
They might seem like tiny innocuous little pests, but they certainly pack a punch. The venom they boast can cause all sorts of nasty complications (including partial paralysis and life-threatening fever), so you need to make sure you know what to do. Take a look at the following wise words and you’ll be well prepared should the worst happen.
Does it Even Matter?
It certainly does! A small number of people have been known to die from the complications caused by untreated tick bites, and many more have become seriously ill and had to cut their walking holidays short. For the sake of a couple of minute’s reading, is it really worth taking a chance? Didn’t think so! Read on, and you’ll be armed with all the information you need.
The Importance of Staying Calm
First things first, you need to stay calm. Granted, that’s easier said than done, but you need to remember that a tick isn’t in and of itself a deadly killer. The vast majority of issues arise when a bite goes unchecked for days on end, so you’re hardly in a position where every second counts. If you want to be able to make best use of your skills and knowledge, staying calm is the way to do it. It’s what will allow you to rationally think through the problem, and get a handle on things at the earliest opportunity. You’ll also feel like a bona fide hiker once you get that annoying tick head out all by yourself!
Reach for Your Credit Card
Credit cards and pen lids are a great way to try and scoop out tick heads that are buried in the skin. The reason for ‘scooping’ is that the body virtually always breaks off, leaving very little for you to pull on above the skin. You want a hard and blunt plastic edge that can gently pinch into the skin on one side of the head. It’s not the most hi-tech approach, but thousands of hikers will tell you it works. After all, when you’re exploring the great outdoors, you’re going to have to survive using little more than your wits at times!
Get the Tweezers out and Start Pulling
If the card doesn’t work, or you don’t have one on you, tweezers are a great alternative. If you have a pair with you, we’d recommend skipping the contents of your wallet altogether, because they’re so much more accurate and precise. Whilst we said that you can’t grip the head with your fingers, some needle-nosed tweezers will allow you to, more often than not. Most of the time when you do this, they may make a small puncture wound on the outer surface of your skin. This is nothing to worry about and you won’t even feel it, but you should ensure your tweezers are properly sterilised before use. Rubbing them with alcohol is an old hiker’s trick that will do the job for you.
Flick it out with the Tip of a Razor Blade
Razor blades and other metal sharps are also a great tool if you have any of them to hand. It’s all about having the ability to gently prod the skin immediately around the tick head, so you can try and get underneath it. You don’t want to go mad here and try and perform some kind of adventurous invasive surgery — that’s not required! What you need to do is have a steady hand, some confidence in what you’re doing, and plenty of precision. If you see the tick head start to bulge out of the skin, you’re halfway there. Proceed gently and with caution, and you’ll be able to flick it out 9 times out of 10.
Rest and Relax in an Epsom Salt Bath for the Evening
If you have the option of a bath, you might want to think about Epsom salts. The first reason is that they will relax your skin and open up the hole the tick head has burrowed into. Walkers often find that when they get out of the bath to dry themselves off, the tick head has vanished down the plug hole. The other reason Epsom salts are worth a try is that they will draw the toxins from the tick right back out of your body. This will counteract the impact of having to wait a few hours for your bath, and it’ll also help ward off any nasty potential side effects — more on those later.
Find Specialist Tick Extraction Pliers
Tick pliers are another great option, but chances are you’re only going to have them to hand if you’ve come prepared. If you don’t like the sound of any of the DIY options above, they might be worth investing in before you set foot on your next trail.
Play it Safe and go to Your Nearest Doctor
Last but not least, there’s always the option of visiting the nearest doctor’s surgery. There’s no shame in getting someone else to take care of it for you, and if you want the peace of mind that everything is as it should be, then this is probably the best option for you.
You Need to Keep a Close Eye on Things Even When the Tick Head is Gone
Before you go, make sure you remember to keep an eye on yourself over the course of the following 48 hours. This is the period in which nasty side effects such as fever, abdominal cramping, and even lethargy and partial paralysis can set in. Take it seriously, but don’t panic, and you’ll know that you’re in fine fettle and ready to continue your walking holiday.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.