Lyme disease is relatively rare in the UK because very specific conditions must be met for a person to contract it. As the NHS explains, only a small number of ticks are infected with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. A tick bite can only cause Lyme disease in humans if the tick has already bitten an infected animal.
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“But it’s still important to be aware of ticks and to safely remove them as soon as possible, just in case,” warns the health body.
How to spot Lyme disease
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), the earliest stage of Lyme disease is a quickly growing rash.
“Most people who develop a rash, get it within days or weeks of being bitten by a tick,” explains the AAD.
If you develop a rash, it appears near (or where) the tick bit you.
“For most people, that means the back, groin, armpit, or a lower leg. However, a tick can bite you anywhere,” says the AAD.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rash begins three to 30 days after the tick bites you.
About 50 percent of people who have Lyme disease develop flu-like symptoms.
These symptoms may appear without getting a rash.
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According to the NHS, some people have flu-like symptoms in the early stages, such as:
- A high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery
- Muscle and joint pain
- Tiredness and loss of energy
- Some people with Lyme disease develop more severe symptoms months or years later, warns the health body.
- These more severe symptoms may include:
- Pain and swelling in joints
- Nerve problems – such as pain or numbness
- Heart problems
- Trouble with memory or concentration
How prevent Lyme disease
The surest way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid areas where ticks dwell, such as wooded, bushy areas with long grass, advises Mayo Clinic.
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If venturing into tick territory, wear shoes, long trousers tucked into your socks, a long-sleeved shirt and a hat and gloves to minimise the risk, advises the health body.
“Try to stick to trails and avoid walking through low bushes and long grass. Keep your dog on a leash,” it adds.
Other preventative measures include:
- Use insect repellents. Apply insect repellent with a 20 percent or higher concentration of DEET to your skin. Parents should apply repellant to their children, avoiding their hands, eyes and mouth.
- Keep in mind that chemical repellents can be toxic, so follow directions carefully. Apply products with permethrin to clothing or buy pretreated clothing.
- Do your best to tick-proof your garden. Clear brush and leaves where ticks live. Mow your lawn regularly. Stack wood neatly in dry, sunny areas to discourage rodents that carry ticks.
- Check your clothing, yourself, your children and your pets for ticks. Be especially vigilant after spending time in wooded or grassy areas.
- It’s helpful to shower as soon as you come indoors. Ticks often remain on your skin for hours before attaching themselves. Showering and using a washcloth might remove unattached ticks.
- Don’t assume you’re immune. You can get Lyme disease more than once.
- Remove a tick as soon as possible with tweezers. Gently grasp the tick near its head or mouth. Don’t squeeze or crush the tick, but pull carefully and steadily. Once you’ve removed the entire tick, dispose of it by putting it in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet, and apply antiseptic to the bite area.
When should I see a GP?
According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you have been bitten by a tick or visited an area in the past month where infected ticks are found and you get flu-like symptoms.
Flu-like symptoms include feeling hot and shivery, headaches, aching muscles or feeling sick, or a circular red rash.
“Tell them if you have been in forests or grassy areas,” advises the NHS.
Unfortunately, as the health site points out, Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose.
It has similar symptoms to other conditions and there’s not always an obvious rash.
“Two types of blood test are available to help confirm or rule out Lyme disease.,” adds the NHS.
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