By: Blonde Two
Ticks for all seasons
‘Check your dark places!’
‘Who’s got the tick tweezers?’
‘Let your GP know if…’
Have sadly all become phrases any outdoor instructor in the UK will know well. And not just in the summer months. B1 and I reported our first Dartmoor winter tick sighting back in February 2019 but that’s now a picture that’s common across the UK.
Our winters are milder. The ticks aren’t dying off so readily.
And they still carry with them the risk of diseases like Lyme Disease and tick-borne encephalitis.
Where are there ticks in the UK?
If you want to find out where you are more likely to have problems with ticks, take a look at this map of tick risk.
You’ll notice that Scotland, Devon, Cornwall, Norfolk and Suffolk are all areas of high tick numbers.
Ticks on Exmoor
If you want more specific location information for research purposes, I can point you to a campsite on Exmoor that is currently riddled with them (it isn’t open to the general public).
They are marching in legions.
It’s worth noting here that if you do have a tick bite, you shouldn’t panic. But you should be vigilant. Only around 1-5% of tick bites can lead to Lyme Disease but the risk of this nasty disease is still there, and if that doesn’t bother you, the hassle of finding and removing the little blighters probably will.
Avoid ticks with the right clothes
Anyway, back to that campsite on Exmoor (it wasn’t a commercial one). The ticks were all over our shoes as soon as we had stepped out of the vans.
Which is why, even in the hottest weather, long trousers, long socks and full length sleeves really are the only sensible choice if you’re in tick country (which is more places than you might think).
Ticks like to hang around at the top of plants waiting for an animal to pass that they can crawl onto. They then head for the deepest, darkest place they can find and proceed to latch on and digest that animal’s blood.
As far as a tick is concerned, you are an animal.
All of this is harder for them if you’re wearing clothing that doesn’t allow access to your skin. Also if you’re wearing light coloured clothing that allows you to spot ticks and brush them off.
A tummy full of ticks
Despite my best clothing efforts I found on my return home from Exmoor (and with Mr B2’s help) 15 ticks latched on to my middle regions. We removed them with a specialist pair of tick tweezers (really fine hooked ones) and I am keeping a close eye on the areas (for red/bullet rashes) and on my general health (flu-like symptoms) for the next few weeks.
If you are worried about symptomatic tick bites, contact your GP.
We tried insect repellent against the ticks whilst at camp, which appeared to have some effect (I usually favour Smidge because it doesn’t contain any DEET). But I don’t like having any repellent on my skin for long periods of time.
So I decided to investigate insect repellent clothing.
My obvious first choice was Rohan as I always know their clothing:
a) Fits really well.
b) Has sensible zip pockets.
c) Is made well enough to last ages.
Rohan’s Insect Shield clothing
I opted for a pair of Lightweight Pioneer Trousers and a Pioneer Shirt. Both treated with Insect Shield technology (Rohan also supply Insect Shield treated socks). The chemical used is Permethrin and it is bonded into the fibres of the fabric. The claim is that this insect protection will last for the lifetime of the garment.
As I have yet to wear out any piece of Rohan clothing, it will take me a few years to report back on that!
I tested the insect-protection theory during our recent wild camping course on Dartmoor. I can happily report that I didn’t have my blood sucked by any ticks, get bitten by any midges or experience the company of any other biting creatures. I particularly loved the trousers, they are lightweight and really cool but robust enough to withstand any hill walking trauma that might befell them. They are also really comfy, and made for someone who likes a high waist and a bit of room around the midriff (aka me).
Even better than all of that, I had a great time storing my necessaries safely in some of those fabulous zip pockets!