Recently, Anna Fedorova went on a BMC ‘Mountain First’ Course. Here, she reports back from a session on Lyme disease and ticks.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease (Lyme Borreliosis) is a bacterial infection that can be contracted from a tick bite, with certain areas across Europe and beyond particularly known as Lyme disease hot spots. Not all ticks carry Lyme disease, even in the affected areas, and even if a tick with Lyme disease does bite you it is not a given the disease will develop. However, if it does, it will need treatment, and it is important to look out for it, as it is pretty hard to diagnose.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
- Lyme disease can cause a bulls-eye rash around the bite area or even blistering lesions, which can take 4-6 weeks to develop after the bite, but between half and two thirds of people won’t show this symptom
- The disease also causes flu-like symptoms, including joint aches and a feeling of ‘running on empty’
- The BMC has a detailed information leaflet, that can be downloaded here, which can help you if you suspect you have contracted Lyme disease
Where is Lyme disease commonly found?
The information on where the disease is to be found remains incomplete, but some areas that have been reported as hot spots include:
- New Forest
- Frankenjura in Germany
It can be found across the UK, and in many European areas, especially in the woodlands, and areas with long grass and vegetation. They can be present throughout the year, but are most active between May and October, and especially at times of warm weather.
What to do if you suspect you have Lyme disease?
- If you have been to an area that is well known for Lyme disease-carrying ticks and you have unusual symptoms, tell your GP!
- It is often hard to diagnose, so any help you can give your doctor would be very useful
- The doctor can do a blood test and prescribe a two-week course of antibiotics as treatment, which usually clears the disease
- It is really important to get treatment, as Lyme disease can have quite unpleasant consequences if left untreated, but tends to be easy to cure in the early stages
What to do if you have found a tick on your body?
- A tick can be really small, especially in the spring time, and it can be quite hard to spot, but usually they are little back creatures that latch on to our bodies, especially warm and damp areas, and fill up with blood over 2-3 days – so they will be easier to see when they become a little bigger
- When you seen one, you must remove it – be careful to get get the body out with as much of the teeth as you can get
- Don’t squeeze the tick as your remove it, as you will only push more of it under your skin!
- Ticks can be removed with tweezers or a special tick remover – a good thing to add to your med kit
- The earlier you remove the tick, the less likely it is to have passed on anything to you
How can you prevent it?
- The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to cover up and check yourself over after a day at the woods or at the crag, especially if the area is known for ticks
- There are anti-tick sprays on sale, though their effectively doesn’t seem to have been proven
- The doctors warn not to cover the tick with Vaseline or Veet to suffocate this, as this doesn’t really work!
The ticks in others parts of the world may carry much more serious diseases – such as tick-borne encephalitis. If you are travelling to more remote areas which are known for these diseases, you would be best off to consult your GP, pharmacist or a travel website, such as fitfortravel.nhs.uk.