Lyme disease: what is it and what are the symptoms?

Following news that the South Downs is regarded as ‘high risk’ when it comes to Lyme disease we look at what it is and the symptoms.

What is it?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks, tiny spider-like creatures mainly found in woodland and heath areas.

Ticks feed on the blood of birds and mammals, including humans.

It is thought there are 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year, with former England rugby captain Matt Dawson one such high profile person who has developed the disease.

The disease can be treated effectively if it is detected earlier enough. However, if detection is delayed there is a risk the person could suffer from severe and long-lasting symptoms.

What to look out for

Early on many people develop a distinctive circular rash around the tick bite, often described as resembling a bull’s eye on a dartboard.

The size of the rash can vary dramatically and may expand over days or weeks.

However, one in three people will not develop this rash.

Some people will experience flu-like symptoms, such as tiredness, muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, a high temperature, chills and neck stiffness.

Weeks, months , or even years later, more serious symptoms will develop. These can include pain and swelling in the joints, problems affecting the nervous system, heart problems, and inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal chord.

What to do

If you have any of the symptoms described after being bitten by a tick then book an appointment with your GP.

Tips to help reduce the risk

* Keep to footpaths and avoid long grass when out walking

* Wear appropriate clothing in tick-infested areas (a long-sleeved shirt and trousers tucked into your socks)

* Wear light-coloured fabrics while out walking so that you can spot a tick on your clothes

* Use insect repellent on exposed skin

* Inspect your skin for ticks, particularly at the end of the day, including your head, neck and skin folds (armpits, groin, and waistband) – remove any ticks you find promptly

* Check your children’s head and neck areas, including their scalp

* Make sure ticks are not brought home on your clothes

* Check that pets do not bring ticks into your home in their fur

For more guidance, visit the NHS website

To read more about Lyme disease in the South Downs area, click here

More from News