Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tick Here

Today we enjoyed one of our fortnightly hikes in the Vosges with the local sports & social club.

It was a fairly typical 17 km hike with 600 metres ascent (& subsequent descent to base).
As usual, we were the only ones (out of a small turn-out of 17; usually 25-30) without hiking poles & without posh specific hiking trousers (tough, thin, quick-dry, zip-off legs to make shorts, covered in pockets & gadgets).
As usual, DS was the only one without a specific hiking rucksack.
We find we can get everything we want for 2 into 1 rucksack, but everybody else fills 1 each, even when they are not carrying luxuries like Champagne bottles or big cakes, which they often are.

But we do have specific hiking boots (the club insists, and they are right).
And doctor's certificates guaranteeing we are fit to walk (needed every year for almost any organised physical activity & surely a waste of time & money in most cases).
And tick tongs (see illustration above).

This is one of the sad facts about Alsace now, and one all visitors should know about.
Ticks have arrived in Alsace, spreading from Germany & Eastern Europe.

Not only are they a nuisance, like mosquitos are here, but they carry several very nasty diseases (Tick-Borne Encephalitis, which is potentially fatal, & Lyme Disease for starters) which mosquitos here don't.

Official guidance leaflets suggest that prevention is better than cure, particularly as there is no cure for TBE at the moment.
Prevention officially involves covering the whole body in dark coloured & tight fitting clothing like you might see on a bee-keeper.
In those conditions, hiking would be a dying art, but maybe it will come to that one day.
Responsible, but more practical, people would say that covering the body is never going to be 100% effective and does hide any ticks which get through gaps, so recommend frequent mutual visual checks (unless you can see behind your own ears) & earliest possible application of the tick tongs.

Previously recommended methods of tick removal included tweezers, and smothering the tick with oil or alcohol, but these are now thought to involve too much risk of the tick throwing up into you, so are no longer recommended.
The tongs (selecting the size according to the tick) are inserted under the tick's "shoulders" and then gently rotated anti-clockwise until the whole tick is removed cleanly.
Apparently all ticks are right-hand thread.
If, for any reason, part of the tick's head is left in, then that becomes a medical emergency & professional help should be obtained as soon as possible.
Otherwise, the area should be cleaned with anti-septic & a careful watch maintained for the various symptoms.
Don't hesitate to consult a doctor quickly if you have either a red rash near the bite, or general 'flu symptoms, in the days after removing a tick.

More details:

Parting thot: "With me a change of trouble is as good as a vacation." - David Lloyd George

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