Cork mum: Two family members were bitten by ticks - here's what I learned...

Up until recently, EIMEAR HUTCHINSON had no experience of ticks - but that all changed and here she shares her experiences, in order to help others
Cork mum: Two family members were bitten by ticks - here's what I learned...

An adult tick (Ixodes scapularis) on grass. Picture: Stock

IT is not often I have a cautionary tale to tell but I do today, and it is about ticks. It is something that has cropped up twice this summer for us, I suspect exacerbated by the presence of the dog, and thus an increase in the time spent walking in the woods.

It is something you hear a lot about, but until this summer I had no immediate experience with it, but let me tell you we were thrown into the deep end this year.

During the August Bank Holiday weekend, we were home in Sligo and went for a lovely walk in the local woods, which took us up through a boardwalk area. There was a significant overgrowth of ferns that we had to brush through as we made our walk along the walk.

We did that walk on a Saturday and on Monday, as we were en route to the Netherlands, my daughter showed me a small bite on her tummy that I wrongly assumed was a midge bite. It looked the same, a slightly raised white bump similar to what you would get from a nettle sting. This is the bit I find interesting because, I can assure you, I looked at that bite a lot over the next 24 hours and there was absolutely nothing in it to suggest that there was any sort of insect present.

We arrived in the Netherlands, I was dropping the girls off there for my sister for a few days, so really it was with the grace of God that the reaction to the tick became evident the day I was there and before I left for home. As the Tuesday progressed, pretty much hour on hour the ‘midge bite’ got bigger and bigger. Around 4pm that day the area around the bite was one shade of red raised and outside that there was another rash developing that was larger, circular and a slightly lighter shade of red.

I decided to send a picture to my friend that is a nurse (I’m sure she’s sick of getting strange pictures and questions from me at this stage!) and sure enough, within minutes, she came back to say she thought it was a tick.

It had never even crossed my mind that that is what it was, but interestingly, at this point you could see a small black dot at the centre of the redness that was beginning to look like there was an insect or tick present.

We went straight to a pharmacy where the pharmacist confirmed it was a tick and kindly removed it for me. I was nervous about doing it wrong as there is a knack to ensuring you remove the entire tick.

It is worth noting here, that there are different types of ticks, because the one my husband arrived home with the other day was a large and obvious tick; an adult tick. Both my husband and daughter got bitten in the exact same place, on their tummies so tuck in those t-shirts if you are in the woods!

There are also nymph ticks which are tiny and they are the ones that are most likely to cause Lymes Disease because they go unnoticed until either you have a local reaction to the bite, like my daughter did, or, worst case scenario, you develop Lymes Disease.

Back to the Netherlands, where thankfully the Dutch healthcare system is incredibly efficient and their English probably better than mine! We had an appointment in the emergency department of the hospital within an hour of ringing. I will insert a little travel tip here – keep your European Health Cards in your wallet. I left ours with our passports in the apartment, I had to pay up front but can claim the money back, but it would have been free if I had had my daughter’s card on me.

An interesting revelation was the fact that they didn’t have any stocks of the antibiotic that we needed. The Dutch Government hadn’t been quick enough to purchase it and other countries (including Ireland thankfully) had bought up the stocks, so we had to settle for a less effective alternative, but that kept us going until she got home and was able to get the antibiotics that she needed.

As a precaution, she needed to undergo blood tests here in Ireland to check for a presence of antibodies that would indicate she had Lymes Disease, but thankfully the first round of those has come back negative.

We are due to go back for a second round of testing as the doctor was worried the first test might have been a bit too early to pick up a presence of the antibodies, so we are not out of the woods yet (pardon the pun).

Tick season is coming to a close at the moment, they are most active from around April to October, but they are there all year round so check yourself for them if you go through a leafy part of the woods and watch out for bites taking on a ‘bullseye’ type rash

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