Watch out for ticks in these green and pleasant lands

- A warning from charity Lyme Disease Action to all country sports fans

With the shooting season almost fully underway in the UK, country sports enthusiasts up and down the country will be getting ready to enjoy the great outdoors. Whatever the activity – be it shooting, fishing or riding – sporting aficionados are likely to be familiar with landscapes such as heather moorlands, bracken-rich spaces, grassy riverbanks and wooded shooting estates.  They may not, however, be so familiar with Lyme disease and the fact that all these areas are prime habitats for ticks. Lyme Disease Action warns people to look out for ticks this coming season.

Stella Huyshe Shires, Chair of the charity Lyme Disease Action, contracted Lyme disease in Devon and says, “Many will be familiar with removing ticks from gun dogs or pets, but not all would know what to do if they had a tick on themselves. It’s important for people to remember that, wherever your dog goes, you also – by and large – go too. Whilst we don’t want to put anyone off enjoying countryside traditions, it’s important to be aware 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.”

NB ticks are not only found in rural areas, but are also found in urban areas such as city parks and gardens.

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.

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.

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

  • Where possible, wear long sleeves and trousers when outdoors enjoying country sports
  • 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
  • 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                                                                                                              6 September 2012

Note to Editors:

1) The Moorland Association represents the owners and managers of 850,000 acres of heather moorland in the North of England and strongly endorses the work of Lyme Disease Action. 350 square miles of tick-harbouring bracken have been controlled in the last decade in the UK, yet it is still on the increase. Moorland Association members have been responsible for a large proportion of bracken spraying to date, but the EU ban on Asulam – the only selective and safe herbicide – could lead to all the good work being undone. See www.moorlandassociation.org for more details.

2) A Lyme disease poster, showing how to remove a tick correctly, and leaflets on Lyme disease, are available for publication if required or for readers to take to their own local GP or veterinary practice. A fact sheet is also available. Tick removers can be ordered via the Lyme Disease Action website and cost from £4.99 including p&p.

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.