What you need to know about ticks
What do ticks look like?
Ticks are typically small external parasites (ectoparasites), around 0.5 to 15mm in size.1 The larval form of some ticks are extremely small and difficult to see, no bigger than a speck of dirt.2 Adult ticks are often bigger, sometimes the size of a coffee bean after feeding.3
When a tick finds a feeding spot on the skin, it grasps and cuts into the surface. The tick then inserts its feeding tube and feeds off the host's blood.3 They often attach themselves where the skin is thinner. Common areas for ticks are armpits, back of knees, elbows, groin and hair-line. However, ticks can attach anywhere, so a full body check is recommended.3,4
Where ticks live
Ticks live near the ground in long grass and can be found both within or outside cities, in parks and gardens, as well as in forests and meadows.2 They cannot jump or fly, but attach themselves to the skin of animals or humans that brush against them.3 Outdoor activities therefore put people at risk of being bitten by a tick, for example: camping and caravanning, walking, biking, picnicking, fruit or mushroom picking or jogging.5
Will I know if I’ve been bitten by a tick?
You may not always notice that you have been bitten by a tick as a tick's saliva contains a natural anesthetic, which can stop you from being able to feel the bite.3,5 If you do find a tick on your body, find out more about how to remove a tick here.
What diseases can ticks cause in humans?
Ticks do not cause disease by themselves. However, if a tick is infected, it can pass this infection on through a bite. Ticks, therefore, have the potential to cause diseases in humans which vary regionally, including diseases such as Lyme disease, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)6
Applying insect repellent containing DEET to exposed skin is one of the precautions that’s recommended to reduce your risk of being bitten by an infected tick. DEET is widely used to repel biting pests such as mosquitoes and ticks.7
Some insect repellents contain a chemical called permethrin, which kills ticks and other insects which come into contact with it.8 They can be sprayed onto clothing and camping gear.
It is important to follow the manufacturer's recommendations as insect repellents are not suitable for everyone.