Now the warm weather is here and people are spending more time outdoors they are at greater risk of contracting the illness.

Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected tick and 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. If caught early however, it is usually curable with a short course of antibiotics.

Ticks are present in both Richmond Park and Bushy Park and can be found in gardens, parks and woods throughout the country. There are some basic precautions people can take to reduce the risk of being bitten by ticks: Lyme Disease Action recommends the following:

  • Wear long sleeves and trousers
  • Wear light-coloured clothing so ticks are easier to spot
  • Use an insect repellent effective against ticks (look for those containing the chemical DEET)
  • Keep to pathways and try to avoid areas of overgrown vegetation
  • Check for ticks regularly during the day
  • Remove any ticks found attached as soon as possible
  • Pack a tick remover if walking or holidaying away from home

Ticks are often difficult to spot as they can be as small as a full stop on an A4 page. They should be removed immediately with a tick removal tool or fine pointed tweezers. Gently pull the tick’s body away from your skin directly outwards, without jerking. Do not try to pull the tick out with your fingers, burn the tick or cover it with creams or chemicals.

If you have been bitten by a tick and notice any adverse symptoms seek medical help straight away.

from Camilla Colley, Lyme Disease Action, www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk

Lyme disease: know the facts

Download an informational poster [PDF 98k]

Lyme Disease Action (LDA) is a UK-registered charity striving for the prevention and treatment of Lyme disease and associated tick borne diseases. Ticks are tiny parasitic, blood-sucking arthropods related to spiders, mites and scorpions. There are many different species of tick in the UK, each preferring to feed on the blood of different animal hosts – though they will feed on human blood too if given the chance.

What is Lyme disease and what are its symptoms?

Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected tick and causes a wide range of symptoms which may include a circular red “bull’s eye” rash, headaches, a stiff neck, extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and disturbances of sight, hearing, digestive system and sleep.

Where are ticks found?

Ticks can be found all over the UK in gardens, woods, moors, and parks – London parks are no exception. They are also found across Europe, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and North America. NOT ALL ticks carry Lyme disease. Infection rates in tick populations vary by tick species and geographic region.

How do you remove a tick?

Ticks should be removed as soon as possible with a tick removal tool which hooks underneath the tick, or fine pointed tweezers. Disinfect the area around the bite using antiseptic cream. DO NOT try to pull the tick out with your fingers, burn the tick or cover it with creams or chemicals.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

The symptoms mentioned above may appear between two and 30 days after a tick bite. Although a rash may appear quite shortly after a tick bite, blood tests will probably be negative initially. The test detects antibodies produced by the body in response to the infection, but they are not produced in detectable amounts for several weeks, or sometimes months, after infection. Many patients with untreated Lyme disease have positive blood tests within three to six weeks of being infected – but some never produce enough antibodies to achieve a positive blood test.

Lyme Disease Action recommends treatment according to clinical diagnosis.

What is the treatment for Lyme disease?

Diagnosed and treated at an early stage, it is usually curable with antibiotics, but in the UK there is a problem with a lack of early diagnosis. Due to widespread lack of knowledge and awareness regarding tick-borne diseases – by GPs and the medical profession as a whole – many people with typical symptoms will not actually be tested for the disease. Many people with Lyme disease do not receive treatment at all because they remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
Can Lyme disease be prevented?

There are many measures you can take to protect yourself from infection. These include wearing suitable clothing (keep your arms and legs covered) and frequently checking the skin for ticks. Make sure you know how to remove a tick properly and seek medical advice promptly if you notice any symptoms.