Related to scorpions and spiders, ticks live in damp, vegetative conditions (woodlands, bracken and long grass) particularly where sheep and deer are found. Latching on to passing flesh, ticks often start off the size of a pinhead but as their blood sac fills, they swell to the size of a pea – yet you are usually completely unaware that you’ve been bitten.
Ticks are tenacious. Getting rid of one is as difficult as escaping the clutches of an outdoor gear shop assistant keen to make a sale. Never hold it by its blood sac (the tick, not the shop assistant) and pull. This could simply force the tick to regurgitate your blood, and any disease it is currently harbouring, back into your own blood supply. The worst gift it can give you is Lyme disease. Remove by grasping close to its embedded mouth parts and pulling out straight. If you find a bit still left, pull it out, too. Better still, avoid ticks by employing these techniques:
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1. Tuck your trousers into your socks – not a great fashion statement, but evidence that you are tick-aware.
2. Splash some DEET on exposed surfaces – it covers up that carbon dioxide smell.
3. Reapply DEET regularly.
Britain’s only poisonous snakes will, on average, bite 100 people every year, although in the UK there have only been 14 deaths caused by adder bites since 1876, the last in 1975. The biggest risk is from anaphylactic shock. The next is being allergic to the antivenom. You can easily identify an adder by the black zigzag markings on its skin, and should walk away carefully if you spot one. Most snakebites result from disturbing or picking up an adder – although why anyone would wish to pick up a poisonous snake is something of a mystery.
If you are in the company of someone who gets bitten, try to raise the bitten part of the body high in the air. Do not be tempted to suck out the venom, Indiana Jones-style, because it could be accidentally swallowed. In any case, there are parts of a fellow hiker’s body at which even the most compassionate bluffer might draw a line.
Seek medical attention immediately and start praying, even if you’re not religious.
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