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Park Talk: If you’ve been out and about, do a tick check!

16th May 2024

By Colin Simpson, Head of Visitor Services and Active Travel, Cairngorms National Park Authority

My idea of a perfect weekend or summer evening is one spent climbing, walking on hills or pedalling along paths around the National Park. Warmer, drier, longer days for me means getting out more and I feel lucky to have the hills, forests and paths of the Cairngorms National Park right on my doorstep.  Possibly the only downside to all of this is coming home to discover one or two ticks beginning to make a meal of my legs!

Whilst finding a tick on yourself is normally just a minor inconvenience, cases can lead to Lyme disease, a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks. I’ve noticed more frequent news stories on the increase of Lyme disease cases in Scotland. Increases in cases could partly be attributed to our changing climate. Tick season used to be roughly between March and October, but milder winters over recent years has meant that ticks are around now for longer periods – I noticed my first tick of 2024 back in February after an orienteering event.

And it’s not just seasoned hikers and mountain bikers who are at risk from tick bites, our pets and children, who are perhaps more likely to go off-piste into long grass whilst on a walk or at the park, are arguably more susceptible to tick bites. We’ve had to take quite a few ticks off the kids and the dog over the years!

For those of us who love the great outdoors, especially in the summer months, being able to completely prevent tick bites is almost impossible, however wearing long socks or trousers can help prevent ticks from latching on. If you’ve been out hiking or biking or just walking your dog, always check yourself – and your four-legged friend – for ticks when you get home. If your kids have been out exploring or have spent the day at the park, please check them too. These checks are important as some symptoms of a tick bite, including inflammation, can take two to three months to develop so it is a good idea to keep an eye on yourself in the weeks following a bite.

There is some great advice on the NHS inform website and on the Lyme Resource Centre website on ticks including how to remove them safely, what to look out for and help on what to do if you are concerned.

As I mentioned, ticks and tick bites are normally no more than an inconvenience and like many of you, I won’t let them get in the way of spending as much time as possible outside enjoying the Cairngorms National Park over the summer, but I will be checking myself each time I come home, and I encourage you all to do the same.