You may come in contact with ticks during walks in the bush, picnicking or while playing in the grass. Ticks are most commonly encountered in wet and humid environments. They are usually found on native animals such as bandicoots or kangaroos but will also attach to humans. Ticks are parasites which bury their mouthparts into people’s skin to obtain a blood meal. They can be as tiny as a pinhead or as large as a fingernail. Tick bite can result in allergic reactions or cause toxic poisoning or transmit disease-causing pathogen.
How to avoid tick bites
The best ways to avoid tick bites are to:
- Wear appropriate clothing including long pants tucked into socks and long sleeved shirts tucked into pants. Light coloured clothing is advised as it makes the ticks easily detectable.
- Spray your clothing and exposed skin with an insect repellent containing DEET (Diethytoluamide) or Picardin. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label on how to apply and how often to reapply.
On return from a bushland area or tick infested area, place all clothing in a hot dryer for at least 10 minutes to kill any ticks that may still be on the clothing. Check yourself and the family (children) for ticks especially behind the ears, on the back of the head and neck, groin, armpits and back of knees. Pets should also be checked regularly for ticks as they bring ticks into the house.
To reduce the humidity levels conducive for tick survival around the play areas and paths, mow lawns regularly, remove mulch and leaf litter and trim overhanging shrubs.
How to remove a tick
Ticks should be removed as soon as possible using fine tipped forceps or fine surgical scissors. Hold the tick as close as possible to the surface of the skin and pull with steady pressure. Avoid squeezing the body of the tick during removal. If you are unable to do this, see your doctor to remove the tick. Do not use methylated spirits, nail polish remover, alcohol, petroleum jelly or any other products on ticks prior to removal as it will cause the tick to inject more toxins.
Note: In individuals with a history of allergic reactions to tick bites, ticks should be removed as soon as possible, but only by a doctor and where resuscitation facilities are readily available.
Funnel web spider
Funnel web spiders live in the ground and are found in New South Wales around the Sydney Basin, Blue Mountains, Hunter region, Central Coast and south coast. It is one of the best known and most dangerous spiders in Australia. Funnel web spider venom is highly toxic and considered potentially dangerous. In some rare, extreme cases the bite can be fatal. Symptoms of funnel web spider bite include tingling sensations around the lips, sweating, nausea, vomiting, headache and high blood pressure and, in serious cases, fluid in the lungs and unconsciousness.
How to avoid funnel web spider bites
Loosely placed rocks and logs in the garden make an excellent habitat for funnel web spiders. You are more likely to encounter funnel web spiders during the warmer months, especially late summer, and also after rainfall that floods the spiders’ nests or spraying of pesticide that sends them looking for alternative shelter.
To avoid funnel web spider bites:
- keep your garden free of rubble and rubbish where spiders can hide
- wear shoes, gloves and long sleeved shirt when working in the garden
- check shoes and households items for spiders.
What should I do if am bitten by a funnel web spider?
As most of the bites tend to be on the hands and feet, a pressure immobilisation bandage should be applied to the bitten limb. Seek urgent medical attention at hospital once the bandage is applied. If it is safe, collect the spider in a jar or container so the species can be identified.
Redback spiders are found commonly throughout Australia, especially in drier and built up areas. The spiders are shiny black in colour with a distinctive red stripe running along the length of their body. The venom from these spiders contains excitatory neurotoxins and they stimulate the nervous system. In most cases, redback spider bites cause severe, localised pain that may last for several days. In some cases, the localised pain can develop into more general symptoms, including sweating, nausea, weakness, chest pain and abdominal pain.
How to avoid redback spider bites
The redback spider is most commonly encountered in the garden, but bites are also reported in the home, particularly when putting on shoes.
To avoid redback spider bites:
- take care when working in the backyard and avoid putting your hands into places you can’t see (e.g. under rocks, between piles of building materials)
- when gardening and backyard cleanups, wear shoes, gloves and a long sleeved shirt
- check shoes and clothing before putting them on, especially if they have not been worn for long periods of time or have been kept outside.
What should I do if am bitten by a redback spider?
Wash the bitten area with soap and keep it clean. Apply cold compresses and ice packs to reduce pain. Pressure bandages should not be applied as they make the pain worse. If the pain is severe and persistent, seek medical attention.
- NSW Poisons Information Centre (Operates 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week) - 13 11 26
- Ambulance – 000
- Public Health Units - 1300 066 055