Freeze it don’t squeeze it, dab it don't grab it...
By Di Westaway | CEO Wild Women On Top and Sydney Coastrek
After an awesome day rock climbing in the Wolgan Valley in the Blue Mountains a couple of years ago, I was woken from my slumber by the most intense itching ever.
I wanted to shred my skin. As a red rash erupted in unmentionable places I was completely overwhelmed by the desire to de skin myself with my fingernails.
Fortunately my partner made be gobble up a little anti histamine pill and within 30 minutes I was calm again.
For two years, I suffered occasional midnight bouts of these unexplained extreme hives. I was on a quest to discover their cause and had narrowed it down to food … but precisely what food was the mystery.
Then, one day, one of our Wild Women, clever Margie, happened to mention a thing called Mammalian Meat Allergy caused by tick bites. She had been to a lecture by world tick expert, Professor Sheryl Van Nunen.
Turns out … it’s a thing. Hives, and or anaphylaxis which can be traced back to past tick bites and triggered by eating meat from mammals. And according to the ABC Catalyst Program recently, it’s a growing thing, particularly on the Sydney Coastal bushland.
But tick bite related hives and anaphylaxis can be prevented by removing ticks correctly. The tick saliva contains the allergen so you need to ensure you don’t squirt extra tick saliva into your body. Here’s the latest from Professor Sheryl Van Nunen.
So you have a tick. How should you remove it?
For the adult ticks, she says the most important thing is not to scratch or squeeze it. This causes the saliva to go straight into your bloodstream. Instead, head to the chemist and pick up a spray containing ether, for example, Wart Off. Spray this on the tick and wait about 10 minutes for the tick to die, then brush off.
'Freeze it, don't squeeze it', says van Nunen.
For the tiny baby ticks, you need a different approach. Often, you won’t actually be able to see these, but you’ll know they are there cos they’ll itch like crazy and usually be redder and more raised than a mosquito bite. To kill these, you need a cream containing Permethrin, which is the same kind of cream you get for scabies. Rub that on the bites and after the ticks die you’ll be able to rub them off.
‘We dab them. Don't grab them’ says Dr Andrew Ratchford.
If you do find yourself bitten and/or covered in bites, don’t worry. They usually itch for a few weeks, but if you can avoid scratching they’ll go away a lot quicker.
And while it might not seem that way at 3am when your whole body is excruciatingly itchy, you will survive... we promise.