It is important for pharmacists to recognise that tick bites are potentially very dangerous and need to be treated as soon as possible
Community pharmacies have a critical role in helping patients suffering from Lyme or Lyme-like disease, or to use the Government’s preferred definition – Debilitating Symptom Complexes Attributed to Ticks, says the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
Many of the patients are suspicious of the health profession after often years of debilitating illness.
Lyme Disease Association of Australia Chief Executive Officer Sharon Whiteman says many patients feel they have been treated badly.
“They get to the stage where they adopt the stance of telling their doctors ‘enough so that they help you but not enough that you get labelled psychiatric’,” she tells the Guild.
“I only had a case today where a very sick patient told me he went to the emergency department and heard the nurse tell a colleague: ‘This guy thinks he’s Lyme put him to the end [of the queue]’.
“Patients typically are dismissed, so by the time they get treatment patients may be a bit suspicious of health professionals generally.”
She said it was important for pharmacists to recognise that every Lyme patient was unique and the treatment regimen had to be customised for each individual.
“The pharmacist is part of the team that looks at all the issues to help customise the treatment for that individual patient and that’s the same for Lyme patients.
“They do need anti-microbials and the sooner they get treated the better. Pharmacists may often be the first health professional these people see so their advice is critical.
“These patients need specialised care and advice and they need it quickly. In Australia that is often being done peer-to-peer but we can help and point them to specialised care.”
Ms Whiteman said it also was important for pharmacists to recognise that tick bites are potentially very dangerous and they need to be treated as soon as possible.
“If a pharmacist has someone come into their pharmacy with tick bite and symptoms they should be referred to us.”
How to correctly remove a tick
According to tiara – Tick Induced Allergies Research & Awareness, avoidance of tick bites is the best option.
This involves “dressing for the occasion” and the use of repellents.
Appropriate dress includes wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when walking or working in areas where ticks occur; tucking pants into long socks; wearing a wide-brimmed hat; and wearing light-coloured clothing, which makes it easier to see ticks.
See more information here on preventing tick bites.
Tiara says research has shown correct removal technique of the tick greatly reduces the change of developing tick allergy and/or mammalian meat allergy.
However it says if somebody has had previous tick anaphylaxis and/or allergy, or has a tick in the genital, eye or ear area, they must see a trained medical practitioner for assessment and removal of the tick.
Its tips include:
- Do not scratch anything that you cannot see.
- Do not use household tweezers; remember ‘household tweezers are tick squeezers’.
- If you are bitten by a tick, kill the tick where it is:
For small ticks (larvae and nymphs), use permethrin cream (available at pharmacies).
For adult ticks, freeze them with an ether-containing spray (available at pharmacies).
Wait for the tick to drop off or remove it taking the utmost care to not compress the tick (as this will squirt allergen, toxin and possibly infection into you).