Hot weather and outdoors bring uptick in tick bites
THE warmer weather and a sense of adventure can lead to Queenslanders hosting unwanted visitors with ticks on the move in hotter months.
People heading into the outdoors are being urged to take simple steps to reduce the likelihood of tick bites with a third of Mackay emergency department presentations for the critters occurring between October and December.
In 2019, there were 330 emergency department presentations for contact with a venomous tick, 105 of those between October and December.
Mackay hospital admissions followed the same trend last year, with 43 of the 103 admissions for tick bites between October and December.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Assistant Director-General Neil Cambourn said visitors to national parks and forests could avoid tick bites by following a few simple tips.
"Ticks tend to live in dry forestry areas with grassy understorey, but they can also be found in rainforest areas during very dry weather periods," Mr Cambourn said.
"Avoid ticks by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, closed in shoes and a wide-brimmed hat."
The Bureau of Meteorology forecast Mackay to reach a maximum of 31C on Wednesday with a zero per cent chance of rain.
Mr Cambourn said wearing light coloured clothing could make it easier to see ticks, and tucking long pants into socks could help prevent them.
"Applying insect repellent to exposed skin can also deter ticks," he said.
Insect repellent containing diethyl-meta-toluamide, known as DEET, or picaridin could be applied to the skin.
The repellent should be applied and reapplied according to the manufacturer's instructions.
It was also recommended to treat clothing with a permethrin-based wash kit which could be obtained from outdoor recreational stores.
It's important to follow the label directions. Permethrin-treated clothing is considered the most effective means of preventing tick bite in tick infested areas.
Emergency Department Strategic Advisory Panel co-chair Dr Niall Small said while a tick bite was usually harmless, it could cause an allergic reaction or serious illness in some people, or an illness such as Australian Tick Typhus if the bite got infected.
Dr Small said it was important to check for ticks on the body and on clothing after spending time in national parks and forests.
"You may not feel a tick until a couple of days later, so it's really important to check yourself," he said.
"Ticks like warm areas of the body and are often found at the back of the head and neck, groin, armpits and backs of knees.
"If you can, get someone to help you check for hard to see areas like on your back or along your hairline - you may also need help to remove ticks.
"Unless you are allergic to ticks, there is usually no need to see a doctor, but it is important you remove the tick as safely and quickly as possible."
Ticks should be killed before removal to reduce the chance of a life-threatening allergic reaction and the development of mammalian meat allergy.
Trying to remove the tick before it has been killed may cause the tick to inject more toxin, leading to a serious anaphylactic reaction.
Products like methylated spirits or burning the tick were not recommended as it may cause the tick to burrow deeper.
To remove a tick, it was recommended to first kill the tick by spraying it with a product that contains ether, such as Wart-Off Freeze or Cold Spray, or apply permethrin cream. Wait about 10 minutes after treatment for the tick to die.
Previous guidelines have recommended the use of fine forceps to remove ticks but unless a person was very skilled, that could pose an allergy risk with increased amounts of toxin release and an increased chance of the tick head remaining embedded in the host.
Wait 10 minutes after the treatment for the tick to die, then carefully brush it off.
Once the tick was removed, follow general first aid for bites and stings, and make sure you do a careful body search for other ticks.
If you can't remove a tick safely by yourself or if you start to feel unwell in the days after removing a tick, consult your doctor.