Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks. Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures found in woodland and heath areas. They feed on the blood of birds and mammals, unfortunately including humans ...
Lyme disease is caused by infected ticks attaching themselves and feeding off you!
It's estimated there are 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year. About 15% of cases occur while people are abroad and ticks are spread around the world in locations such as Europe, Australia and North America.
"It's easy to treat if caught early enough, but can easily be misdiagnosed!"
The first signs you are infected with Lyme disease is usually a bullseye shaped rash at the location of the bite. It starts small and can grow over time. It's possible to get rashes elsewhere on the body as different parts of you react to the bacterial infection.
Typical early stage symptoms are:
High temperature (fever)
These symptoms can easily be confused with flu, but in combination with the bullseye rash, should allow you to figure out you may have Lyme disease.
This image shows the sizes of ticks, from lava to adult
Weeks, months or even years later, you could develop inflammation in your joint, nervous system problems like numbness and facial paralysis, and it could even turn into a form of meningitis. If you think you're infected with Lyme disease, or have recently seen a tick attached to you, then do seek a consultation with your GP.
"And what about those pesky ticks themselves?"
Well, if you've been in the countryside, it is worth checking yourself over when you return. Although they could attach to you anywhere, they're most likely to be found on your lower legs or feet (unless you've been lying down) so quality boots, socks and long trousers are of huge benefit when out and about.
The lifecycle of a tick
You're more likely to become infected if the tick remains attached to your skin for more than 24 hours. But ticks are very small and their bites aren't at all painful, so you may not even realise you have one attached unless you look for it.
If it is engorged with blood, it is likely to have been attached and feeding off you for quite some time. Although it can take up to 24-hours for any infection to reach your blood stream, remove it as soon as you can using either pointy tweezers or, the recommended method, a special tick removal tool. Here's a useful video that may help you:
What you don't want to do is squash the tick or pull it so forcefully it separates the head from the body. Also, remember to clasp it as close to your skin as possible so you don't squeeze the stomach contents into your bloodstream.
Don't use chemicals, or try to burn the tick off with a match or cigarette. It could cause it to regurgitate some of the blood it's taken from you, further risking infection. Tweezers really are the safest way to do it.
Remember to keep the tick to show to your GP if you develop any of the initial symptoms shown in the list above. They will probably prescribe a two to four-week course of antibiotics depending on the severity of your symptoms.
There are two schools of thought on the transferability of Lyme disease between humans and animals; some say yes, some no. The consensus is still out as to what Lyme disease really is and how to effectively treat it once long-term symptoms develop.
"Are you heading outside and are worrying about ticks?"
At Rugged & Tough, we stock only the best quality countrywear and can make the right recommendations on boots and clothing to help keep you protected whilst out and about in the countryside. We also stock the tick removal tool that works for both humans and animals.
Why not call us on 01525 211488, click here to visit our website, or come in and see us just south of the Hockliffe lights on the A5 Watling Street. We'd be happy to advise you.
Until next time ...
RUGGED & TOUGH
Remember to check your pets over for ticks as well. They jump from grass and bushes and can easily be caught in their fur, finding their way down to the animal's skin and attaching.
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