How to Avoid Lyme Disease

If you’re a seasoned hiker or a camper it’s likely that you’ve heard of Lyme disease, or at least come across a tick or two when out spending time in the beautiful UK countryside.

And the last year has seen us all spending an increasing amount of time outdoors with our families, often heading out into rural spaces to be amongst nature (and to socially distance from others!).

Being outdoors is great for physical and mental health, but as we move towards spring and peak tick season, we’d like to share some information on the risks of Lyme disease, to help people enjoy the outdoors, safely. We’ve partnered with the Caudwell LymeCo charity to get their advice.

Read on to discover what Lyme disease is, the symptoms and how to avoid it while enjoying the great outdoors…

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an infection spread by tick bites, which attacks the nerves, joints, heart, brain, eyes and can cause a characteristic skin rash.

It can be a debilitating illness that’s difficult to cure if not treated promptly. The latest research suggests there could be around 9,000 cases a year – that’s 24 people a day catching the disease.

How do you get Lyme disease?

Ticks are most active from May to October but are present all year round. They live in long grass, woodland, parks and even urban gardens, and climb on as you brush past, or sit on the ground.

Not all ticks carry Lyme disease, but if you are bitten by a tick, it’s important to know the signs to look out for. And of course, the best way to avoid catching Lyme disease is to avoid being bitten in the first place!

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is often called the ‘great imitator’, as its symptoms are similar to a lot of other illnesses, like chronic fatigue syndrome, MS and even COVID-19.

Initial symptoms are flu-like, with fevers, headache and stiff neck. You may also develop a bull’s eye type rash (pictured). This symptom is characteristic of Lyme disease but only around two-thirds of people get it.

Other symptoms include nerve pain or numbness, fatigue, cognitive issues and muscle and joint pain. Symptoms can take anywhere from 3 days to 3 months to appear.

If you develop a rash or any of the symptoms mentioned above and think (or know) you have been bitten by a tick, see your doctor who can prescribe a course or two of antibiotics to get rid of the infection.

How to protect yourself from tick bites

Here are some tips on protecting yourselves from tick bites whilst out enjoying the outdoors:

  • Tuck in your clothing! Tuck t-shirts into trousers, trousers into socks, and so on. Not the most attractive of looks, but it blocks their route of entry!
  • Try to wear light-coloured clothing, so you can spot any ticks on you.
  • Spray insect repellent on any exposed skin and consider spraying your clothes/tent with permethrin if you’re going camping.
  • Stick to well-maintained pathways where possible, avoiding long grass.
  • Check yourselves (and your pets!) for ticks as soon as you return home, or every four hours when you’re outside. They can be as tiny as a poppy seed and you won’t feel a tick crawl on you or bite you.
  • They like warm, soft crevices(!) so be sure to check your belly button, groin area, armpits and between your toes or behind your knees. Get someone to check places you can’t see, like your hairline and neck (popular spots for children to be bitten).
  • If you find a tick attached, remove it immediately with a tick removal tool (you can buy them online for a few pounds), or a pair of pointed tweezers. Lift straight upwards, pulling firmly and steadily.
  • NEVER squeeze the tick’s body. Disinfect the bite area and wash your hands.
  • Ignore old wives’ tales about rubbing oil, alcohol or Vaseline on the tick. This may cause it to become distressed and vomit potentially Lyme-infected bacteria into your body.

Who is the Caudwell LymeCo?

If you would like any further information on Lyme disease, please visit the Caudwell LymeCo website at caudwelllyme.com.

We are a charity that raises funds for Lyme disease research, campaigns for awareness, and provides information and advice to the public. We promote the health of sufferers of Lyme disease and associated diseases and medical conditions in the UK and beyond.

The “Co” part of our name refers to co-infections that you can get alongside Lyme disease. So, we also aim to promote, sustain and increase individual and collective knowledge and understanding on the subject of Lyme disease and associated diseases.

Enjoy the beautiful outdoors….just beware of the mini beasts!

If you follow this advice, you will not only keep yourself and others safe but be able to fully enjoy your outdoor activities to the full without worrying about Lyme disease.

Click on the links below for products that will help to keep you safe and covered.

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