During the summer months we often receive calls about tick bites and Lyme Disease.
Lyme disease is an illness caused by bacteria that live in the gut of some ticks. Ticks do not jump or fly, but they can attach themselves to passing animals and people by biting through skin and sucking blood. Left alone, they usually drop off after about eight days. Ticks are most active from March until November.
Here are the answers to the usual questions that we get asked. Please also see our surgery themed notice board.
How can I avoid being bitten?
Try to keep skin covered if you walk in higher risk areas such as woodland and long grass, and check your skin afterwards for ticks. Don’t forget to check the scalp. Ticks can be very small - about the size of a poppy seed - or as large as a small spider.
Consider using an insect repellent.
I have a tick on my skin – help!
Remove the tick as soon as possible using a pair of fine tipped tweezers, or a tick removal kit which can be bought from the chemist, veterinary practice or from the internet.. DO NOT use Vaseline, nail polish or matches.
Why not buy a tick removal kit now, and keep it in your first aid kit?
Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull upwards slowly and firmly.
Clean the bite area with soap and water or antiseptic and keep an eye on the bite area for several weeks to observe any changes.
There’s a tiny black dot – I think I’ve left a bit of mouth part behind.
Mouthparts left in the skin can cause local irritation but try not to worry. You do NOT need to see the nurse to have it dug out. They should be left alone.
Do I need an antibiotic straight away to prevent Lyme’s Disease?
No. Try not to worry. Not all ticks in the UK carry Lyme’s disease. Transmission of Lyme’s is much less likely if the tick was attached for less than 24 hours and is not yet very swollen. Current advice is that in the UK there is no need for treatment except if symptoms develop.
So what should I look out for?
A small red circular patch may appear soon after a tick bite and persist for a few days; this is normal. If the red patch does not disappear within a couple of weeks or begins to spread outwards, it may indicate Lyme disease and you should contact your GP for advice
The typical rash of Lyme’s disease that develops at the site of the bite is often described as looking like a bull’s eye on a dart board, and spreads outwards. It usually spreads to at least 5cm diameter, and may be very much bigger.
Not everyone gets a rash: people with Lyme’s disease may experience multiple flu like symptoms such as fever and sweats, chills, fatigue, neck pain or stiffness, headaches, joint or muscle pains. Other symptoms light include sharp, prickly nerve pains, ora paralysis of the facial muscles called Bell’s Palsy.
When should I see the GP?
See the GP if you develop any of the above the symptoms and tell the GP if you remember being bitten by a tick, or think you may have been, or if you have spent time in areas where ticks might be found, such as woodlands, grasslands, parks and allotments.
Blood tests may be needed if you have not developed the characteristic rash, and sometimes these need to be repeated a month later, if the diagnosis is not clear.
Most people with Lyme’s disease will be treated with a three week course of antibiotics.