top of page
Image by ali elliott
ticks

Ticks are small blood-sucking arthropods present throughout the world in many different environments. There are over 900 species split between either hard or soft bodied ticks.
 

In the UK, the Lyme disease bacteria (borrelia)  can be transmitted to humans by at least three species of hard-bodied tick belonging to the Ixodes complex:
 

  • Ixodes ricinus or sheep tick

  • Ixodes hexagonus or hedgehog tick, which may inhabit urban areas

  • Ixodes canisuga: the fox tick, also known as the dog tick
     

N.B. Ixodes scapularis is the deer tick, a native American species, not found in the UK

4-ticks.jpg

Where are ticks found?

Ticks are present across the UK and are mostly found in woods, fields and moorland, though can also survive in some parks and gardens. Ticks cannot jump or fly. Instead they climb a piece of vegetation and wait for a passing human or animal to catch hold of. They are carried on deer as well as small mammals and birds. They may even be carried into the home on domestic pets. The prevalence of ticks is known to be particularly high in the Scottish highlands.
 

Ticks are more active from April to October but may still be found throughout the year in warmer parts of the UK. The incidence of Lyme disease peaks in June, with a smaller peak in September. Studies have indicated that between 0-12% of UK ticks may be infected with the Lyme bacteria, with some variation between different locations across the country.
 

The Centre for Tick Virus Research is mapping  ticks sightings by the public and working with the Lyme Resource Centre (LRC)  to improve awareness. Find out more here: What makes viruses tick?

How do ticks spread Lyme disease?

Ticks pass through three life stages: larva, nymph and adult, and require a blood meal  in each stage. The tick may become infected during one blood meal before then transmitting borrelia  and other infections during its next blood meal.  How ticks spread disease | Ticks | CDC

lifecycle-small.jpg

There is no proven minimum time needed for transmission of infection from the tick to an animal or human, however the longer the attachment ( which can be several days) the greater the risk. Since tick bites are painless, they can easily go unnoticed - particularly nymph  ticks which measure less than 2mm in size and may therefore remain attached for longer than the larger adult ticks, increasing the likelihood of transmission of Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections.  (Transmission | Lyme Disease | CDC)

Ticks outside the UK

  • An increased prevalence of ticks and higher tick infection rates are known to occur in mainland Europe and parts of North America, as compared to the UK.

  • The recorded incidence of Lyme disease is particularly high in Central and Eastern Europe and North-eastern States of the USA.

  • Ticks may carry a range of other bacteria, viruses and parasites; though very few cases of other tick-borne diseases have been recorded in the UK. A case of tick-borne encephalitis was reported in the UK in Spring 2023.

  • Tick-borne encephalitis detection in England - GOV.UK.

  • It is important to mention your travel history, within or outside the UK, if being assessed for the risk of Lyme disease.

Tick Awareness

  • Tick awareness is an essential part of Lyme disease prevention.

  • Advice on avoidance and prevention of tick bites includes:

  • Stick to paths

  • Avoid brushing against vegetation

  • Wear long trousers and tuck them into socks

  • Wear light coloured clothing so that ticks are more easily noticed

  • Carry a tick remover or fine toothed tweezers and carry out tick checks, both during and after time outdoors - especially on children and domestic animals

  • Prompt correct tick removal is key to primary prevention of Lyme disease.

  • Insect repellents containing DEET and picardine are effective against ticks.

  • Pet owners are one and a half times more likely to be bitten by a tick than non-pet owners. (Animals may carry ticks into the home.)

  • Tick awareness A5 leaflet for printing

  • Preventing tick-borne disease through awareness

Tick bite management

  • It is estimated that only one in three people notice a tick bite.

  • Nymph ticks may be as small as a poppy seed.

  • Ticks may remain firmly attached for up to five days. The bite may not be itchy or painful.

  • Adults tend to be bitten on the lower body such as behind the knee, the groin or the navel, whereas children are more likely to be bitten above the waist, especially around the hairline.

  • The likelihood of a person developing Lyme disease from a tick bite in the UK is thought to be low. However, there is no proven minimum time of attachment required for transmission of infection.

  • Ticks should be removed promptly and carefully using a tick removal tool or fine tipped tweezers.  Do not use oil or nail varnish, and avoid squashing or traumatising the tick as this increases the risk of transmission of infection.
    Tick Twister Video

  • Following a tick bite, a person should watch for signs of skin rashes, flu-like symptoms or other unusual symptoms for at least 30 days following the bite.

Tick bite prevention and management

Be tick aware toolkit.pdf   (UKHSA tick aware toolkit)

bottom of page