With over 24,000 schools in the UK, many of which will be holding end-of-term Sports Days, the UK charity Lyme Disease Action urges school Head Teachers, their staff and all parents to watch out for ticks and tick bites when children take part in outdoor activities.
Read on for key information on ticks, tick bites and how to prevent them, advice and guidance on tick removal, and Lyme disease recognition.
Ticks that attach to humans are the size of a pinhead – much smaller than those you see on a pet. They are spider-like creatures with eight legs, and can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Key points for teachers and parents include:
- Tick bites may not be itchy or painful, making them easy to overlook or ignore
- Tick bites may occur round the hairline of small children, so scalps should be checked
- Ticks are found where there is enough damp vegetation to prevent them from drying out, eg in woodland, rough grassland, moorland, or even urban parks and gardens
- Ticks can be active year round but May to September is peak season and awareness is particularly important during outdoor activities and during the school holidays
- Ticks carrying disease can be found throughout the UK and Ireland (also across Scandinavia and Europe – particularly Eastern Europe – and the East Coast of the USA).
- Preventative measures include using insect repellents containing DEET, wearing long trousers and brushing down clothing after walking through woods, long grass and bracken.
Be tick aware:
Says Stella Huyshe-Shires, Chair of UK charity Lyme Disease Action (www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk):
“The simple but vital message that everyone should be aware of to reduce the risk of tick-borne disease is to be tick aware.
“All adults should protect their children and themselves by being aware of ticks at this time of the year and by watching out for potential Lyme disease symptoms. Such symptoms include a spreading circular red rash, sometimes like a bull’s eye, or flu-like symptoms and intense tiredness. If symptoms are noticed, they should take the child to their GP along with a copy of a leaflet on Lyme disease, available to download at www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk, bearing in mind that many UK GPs have never previously encountered Lyme disease.
There is advice and guidance for both families and the medical profession on the Lyme Disease Action website, including links to Public Health England and NHS advice on Lyme disease. Lyme Disease Action’s leaflets and website are accredited by the Information Standard as being trustworthy sources of information.
Says Huyshe-Shires: “Brush down your own clothes and those of your children after walking in parks and countryside and check your own and your children’s hairlines and all nooks and crannies on your/their bodies in the shower or bath. Keep an eye out for ticks on your pet’s fur and brush dogs after walking in woodland or long grass before they come inside.
“No-one should be put off from enjoying the great outdoors – we all know that fresh air and exercise is good for us. We should simply be vigilant where ticks are concerned, as the long-term effects of untreated Lyme disease can mean ill health for many years.”
Tick removal: do it as soon as possible!
- Never attempt to dislodge a feeding tick by burning it with a match or covering it with lemon juice, Vaseline or the like as this increases the risk of infection being passed into the blood stream.
- Ideally use a proper tick remover (available from vets and via www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk – from £5.50 including postage and packaging). If no tools are available, use a cotton thread. Tie a single loop of cotton around the tick’s mouthparts, as close to the skin as possible, then pull upwards and outwards without twisting.
- Contribute to science – send the tick to Public Health England’s Tick Recording Scheme – see https://www.gov.uk/tick-recording-scheme for more information on what to do.
Diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease:
Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics and the earlier the treatment is started, the better the outcome.
If a bull’s eye rash is present treatment should be started without waiting for a blood test as this is a clear indication of Lyme disease. If a rash has not been noticed, blood tests may be used but there are no conclusive tests for Lyme disease. LDA’s website has more details
Essential information is available for the public and for doctors on NHS Choices and the LDA website, including links to Public Health England and NICE.
The Royal College of GPs has an online training module on Lyme disease which is free of charge and will take doctors and nurses just 30 minutes to complete. It can be located here: http://elearning.rcgp.org.uk/enrol/index.php?id=164.
Ends/15th July, 2015
Issued on behalf of Lyme Disease Action, a UK-registered charity striving for the prevention and treatment of Lyme disease and associated tick-borne diseases – www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk – by Sue Ockwell, Travel PR, email firstname.lastname@example.org