Lyme Disease: Be Tick-Aware

Ticks are very small creatures that can sometimes pass Lyme Disease on to humans, dogs and, to a lesser extent, cats

Ticks are part of the spider family which is obvious in the photo above but young ones can be as small as full stop. Once they have fed, their bodies swell with blood.

Lyme Disease 

Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that is often (but not always) accompanied by a bull’s eye rash and comes with flu-like symptoms in the early stage with later symptoms including pain and swelling in joints and problems with the nerves and heart.

Although not all ticks carry the bacterium, if not diagnosed and treated early it can cause devastating symptoms and in some cases can be fatal. Anyone walking outdoors or handling pets is at risk. However, if the infection is recognised early enough and correctly treated with antibiotics there is a good chance of recovery.

There is increasing awareness of Lyme Disease and research into different species and locations of ticks. If you find a tick on yourself or a pet please be very careful how you remove them. We use a tick twister (see below) to remove ticks from our cats but you need to do this very carefully as if you pull instead of twist there is a risk of leaving the tick head embedded in your pet. And do keep an eye on the bitten area of skin for any signs of a rash which might indicate Lyme Disease (although rashes don’t always appear unfortunately).

Penny Post reader Angela Howard contracted Lyme Disease over 20 years ago and works hard to raise the profile of the disease so more people receive the correct diagnosis and treatment and she has started The Lyme Dialogues Podcast.

What to do if you are bitten by a tick

You probably won’t feel the bite as ticks have anaesthetic in their saliva so you need to check your skin if you’ve been out in long grass or foliage.  It is estimated that approximately one third of ticks carry the Lyme Disease bacteria. This means that the majority of ticks don’t carry the bacteria.

However if you are bitten by a tick, do keep an eye on the area and if a rash develops or if you feel unwell (for example. flu-y, achey, headaches and fatigue) in the weeks following the bite then consult your doctor. The rash (which normally resembles a ‘bullseye’) won’t necessarily appear in the place you were bitten and it might not appear at all.

Government estimates say 5-8 people are infected with Lyme Disease each day in the UK and early treatment with antibiotics is vital to ensure full recovery, before the neurological problems and joint pain start.

How to remove a tick and what to do with it

If you ever find a tick on yourself or a pet you can send it to Public Health England’s Tick Recording Scheme to help them monitor species and locations of ticks. (Please note hey don’t test whether the tick is carrying Borrelia Burgdorferi which is Lyme Disease). 

This video shows you how to remove a tick with a tick twister:

How to prevent being bitten by a tick

Prevention is always better than a cure so do your best to prevent being bitten by a tick. Ticks wait on the tips of foliage waiting for a host to brush past. They don’t jump but they will latch onto your legs if they are exposed.

So it is recommended to:
– wear insect repellent
– avoid walking through long grass
– wear long trousers and tuck them into socks
– wear light coloured clothing to help you see any ticks you pick up
– shower and check for ticks when home

Here is advice about preventing ticks from biting your pets.

More Information Sources on Lyme Disease – patient support

“The Adventures of Luna & Dips (ticks) by Jenny O’Dea. An educational story book on the adventures of two ticks, available from Amazon.

Be Tick Aware Campaign – Isabelle Tucker, Wiltshire Council Tel: 0300 456 0100 Wiltshire Council is putting together a ‘tool kit’ for other Councils to use.

The Lyme Dialogue Podcast by Angela Knight (former BBC journalist and Lyme patient) Tel: 01672 870 864: 07795278117


3 Responses

  1. I have heard that Lyme disease can also be contracted through canal water contaminated by Rat urine. Is this true please and, if so, what is the advice about prevention?

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