Experts are warning Australians about tick-borne illnesses in summer as people head outdoors to enjoy the warmer months.

People planning overseas travel are also encouraged to be cautious during hikes and other outdoor activities.

Director of the Karl McManus Foundation and infectious disease researcher Dr Mualla McManus says that confusion and mixed messages around tick-borne diseases can distract people from being vigilant on the issue.

“The recent Federal Senate enquiry highlighted a range of competing views on the definitions of tick-borne diseases. However the reality is that tick-borne diseases exist in Australia and ticks are more prevalent in the warmer spring and summer months,” says Dr McManus.

Tick-borne disease left untreated can lead to chronic and debilitating illness and cause issues with mobility, eyesight, cognitive impairment and overall wellbeing.

Symptoms can include flu-like symptoms tiredness, muscle aches and pains, stiff neck, cognitive impairment and sensitivity to light.

“There is ongoing debate and research among scientists, policy makers and healthcare professionals to determine exactly what tick-borne pathogens we have here in Australia,” Dr McManus says.

“We are urging people to put that to the side. The best thing you can do is stay watchful and take some simple precautions to avoid being bitten. If you are bitten, stay alert to any indications of illness.

“Many people don’t connect the symptoms they are experiencing with being bitten by a tick.”

She encourages consumers to raise tick bite experiences with their doctor even if some time has passed.

Long grasses and bushland provide ideal environments for ticks, and it is not uncommon to have paralysis ticks in gardens. Paralysis ticks have a distinct seasonality – reaching full maturity during the warmer spring and early summer months.

Ticks are most active during periods of high humidity, especially after rain. Related insects such as biting midges breed in wet soils and sandy beach areas.

 

Preventive tips:

  1. Wear light coloured clothing when outdoors so you can see small ticks
  2. Check your body, children and pets thoroughly when you return from outdoor activity – this includes behind the ears, in the hair and back of the head
  3. Once home, place your clothing in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes  to kill any ticks
  4. Cut grass and trim shrubs and small trees around your home regularly
  5. Grow insect repelling plants in your garden such as chrysanthemums, citronella, lavender or garlic