Much has been written speculating about the effects of tick bites. Ticks can certainly be dangerous, with 3,000 people in the UK being diagnosed with Lyme disease (caused by tick bites) – and the numbers could well be higher, as many cases may be either be undiagnosed or unreported (in the US it is 300,000 diagnosed each year). A recent article in the Independent is a good reminder to review the latest thinking on the topic.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection primarily transmitted by ticks, typically found in wooded and grassy areas, including urban gardens and parks. Ticks are most active between March and October.
High-risk areas for infected ticks are the south of England and the Scottish Highlands though infection is possible in other areas. Most tick bites don’t transmit Lyme disease and prompt, correct removal of the tick reduces the risk of transmission.
Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete - a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme is called “The Great Imitator,” because its symptoms mimic many other diseases. It can affect any organ of the body, including the brain and nervous system, muscles and joints, and the heart.
People may (or may not) get a red rash that:
Other symptoms of early Lyme disease may present as a flu-like illness (fever, chills, sweats, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea and joint pain). Some patients have a rash or Bell’s palsy (facial drooping).
Patients with Lyme disease are frequently misdiagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and various psychiatric illnesses, including depression. Misdiagnosis with these other diseases may delay the correct diagnosis and treatment as the underlying infection progresses unchecked.
Check your symptoms via a great resource using the link at the bottom of the page.
The safest way to remove ticks is by using a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool. If you have been bitten:
Contact your GP or NHS 111 immediately if you begin to feel unwell with flu-like symptoms or develop a circular red rash. Remember to tell them you were bitten by a tick or recently spent time outdoors.
If Lyme disease is not diagnosed and treated early, it may become late-stage or chronic. This may also occur when early treatment is inadequate. Lyme disease may spread to any part of the body and affect any body system. Typically, it affects more than one body system and can cause life-changing problems.
See below for a symptom checker.