Walk tick-aware, advice from Lyme Disease Action

Walk tick-aware, advice from Lyme Disease Action

- Take steps to avoid ticks whilst walking this year

Walking – a resolution for 2013 or an ongoing interest? Either way, spare a thought for ticks as you don walking boots and traipse the countryside this year.

From city strolls – complete with picnic in the park – to stomping across fields, and from hiking in the wilderness or leisurely pub walks, charity Lyme Disease Action warns all walkers to be tick aware as they set out on foot, whether walking in the UK or abroad whilst on holiday. (NB ticks are found throughout the UK, North America and across Europe).

While the tick population peaks from April through to October, milder and damper winters keep ticks busy all year round and, if bitten by an infected tick, you could get Lyme disease. Lyme disease causes a range of unpleasant symptoms which may include a circular red rash, headaches, a stiff neck, extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and disturbances of sight, hearing, digestive system and sleep. If left untreated it can progress to the joints, the heart and the nervous system. 

Comments Stella Huyshe-Shires, Chair of Lyme Disease Action, “Awareness is key; we’re all for walking and enjoying the countryside, but it’s important for people to have an awareness of ticks. This includes knowing how to avoid being bitten by ticks, how to remove ticks properly and how to recognise symptoms because, if diagnosed early, Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a course of antibiotics.” 

Carried by deer, small mammals (foxes, rabbits, hedgehogs, etc.) and birds, ticks are able to sense a passing potential blood donor by picking up the carbon dioxide that humans exhale. They hook their legs on to the person in question, hiding in warm, dark corners of the body. Tiny – the size of a fullstop on this page – ticks can easily go undetected and their bite does not cause irritation, because they inject their host with an anaesthetic.

To reduce the risk of being bitten by an infected tick, Lyme Disease Action advises walkers to take the following precautions:

• Where possible, wear long sleeves and trousers when walking

• Ensure you brush your clothing off before going inside

• Use an insect repellent effective against ticks (look for those containing the chemical DEET)

• Check for ticks regularly during the day and very carefully when you wash or shower after being out and about

• Keep to pathways, where possible, and try to avoid areas of overgrown vegetation

• Remove any ticks found attached as soon as possible

• Check animals for ticks – if they’ve been bitten, you could have been too

Tick removal

Ticks should be removed immediately with a tick removal tool. Do not try to pull the tick out with your fingers, burn the tick or cover it with creams or chemicals. If you don’t have a tick removal tool, use a thread of cotton wound round close to the skin and pull upwards or, alternatively, cut a slit in a plastic card and slide that under the tick’s body.

Treatment

If you have been bitten by a tick and notice any of the above symptoms, seek medical help straight away. Diagnosed and treated early, Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics. NB tick bites do not itch like mosquito bites, so awareness is important to aid diagnosis.

Lyme Disease Action (www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk) is a charity striving for greater awareness of Lyme disease and associated tick-borne diseases.

Ends                                                                                                              14 January 2013

 

Press: Issued by Lyme Disease Action’s press office (www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk).

For more information, or to speak to Stella Huyshe-Shires, the Chair of Lyme Disease Action, please contact Sue Ockwell or Helena Hamlyn via email – press@lymediseaseaction.org.uk – or ring 020 8891 4440.