Lyme disease, sometimes called Lyme borreliosis, is caught via bites from infected ticks.
Early signs of the condition occur within two to 30 days of being bitten and may include: a circular red ‘bull’s eye’ rash, headaches, a stiff neck, extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and disturbances of sight, hearing, coordination, digestive system and sleep.
You can also experience a fever, flu-like symptoms and bouts of extreme anxiety, while long-term symptoms include inflammatory arthritis, numb limbs, facial paralysis, heart failure and even meningitis.
Unfortunately there is, as yet, no cure, so how can you avoid getting Lyme disease in the first place?
1. Be prepared
You’re likely to find ticks living in long grass, humid forests and moist, wooded areas. So, if you’re hiking or just going for a countryside stroll, avoid walking through long grass, bushes and dense vegetation – especially if you’ve got bare skin!
2. Use insect repellent
Ward off ticks like you would mosquitoes, with a heavy-duty insect repellent, preferably one that is 20% DEET.
3. Perform checks
If you have been out and about in the great outdoors, check thoroughly for any sign of ticks once you’re home.
Their favourite spots are armpits, ears, bellybuttons, behind the knees, hair, waists and between legs.
4. Keep pets safe too
Dogs are particularly susceptible to picking up ticks, and if they’ve got them, it’s not hard to imagine how swiftly you can end up with ticks in your home.
Dogs can wear anti-tick collars, but keep them away from spots that are likely to be infected too.
5. Stay away from deer
Adult ticks’ favourite food source tends to be deer – so keep clear of them!
6. Tidy your garden
Keeping grass and bushes under control in your garden by cutting them back (while wearing gloves and long-sleeved clothing) will help make your garden less attractive to ticks, making you less likely to get bitten.
7. Remove ticks properly
If a tick is attached to you for less than 24 hours, there’s a very good chance you won’t catch Lyme disease, just be sure to remove it – tweezers work well – as soon as possible, then be on high alert for a developing rash or fever, which are often the first signs of the disease.
If you’re worried about a tick bite, always see your GP.