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
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.
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)
Ends 14 January 2013
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, free of charge, for readers to take to their own local GP or veterinary practice. A fact sheet is also available on request. 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 - email@example.com - or ring 020 8891 4440.