In the list of things I should be worried about while running around the UK, I didn’t really count being bitten by nasties as one of them. In Australia yes – let’s put it this way, I wouldn’t go gambolling about the fields like shampoo ad girl down there in Oz without boots on – but Britain? It hadn’t crossed my mind.
Well, it seems it should because today, Lyme Disease Action sent out a warning to runners to be extra careful about ticks. And the reason is a condition called Lyme Disease.
Well known in the US Lyme Disease isn’t that well known here in Britain.
From writing many travel health features I knew it had appeared in Europe but even I hadn’t twigged you could now actually catch it in the UK but according to Lyme Disease Action apparently not only are there ticks carrying the disease in the countryside, it’s also been found in urban parks (like Richmond Park near Central London).
Now, I – and they – aren’t trying to panic anyone, just make you aware that there is a risk. So, here’s a quick need-to-know guide….
What is Lyme Disease?
It’s a disease passed on by infected ticks. It can trigger symptoms including a bullseye shaped rash, headache, a stiff neck, fatigue, muscle and joint pain. Left untreated it can progress to the joints, heart and nervous system – and you can get pretty sick indeed.
How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a tick?
It’s tricky, tick bites don’t itch.
Instead, you might only notice that you’ve been bitten if you find the tick hanging on for dear life about your person. It’ll look like a little black speck on the skin.
Only when you try to brush it off do you realise it’s a creature.
At that point, your first instinct will probably to hop around shrieking ‘get it off me, get it off me’.
This is good, you do want to remove it – but you have to do it the right way.
Don’t pull it or try and burn it off, if you can get to a chemist or a vet, go and buy a tick removal tool which removes it safely.
If not, you can do it with certain types of tweezers or cotton. Everything you need to know about getting rid of the sucky little blighters is here.
If I’ve Been Bitten How do I Know if I Have Lyme Disease?
Well, it’s a bit tricky as even a lot of doctors are a bit confused by the symptoms.
If however you have been bitten and experience the symptoms above – or, if at any point you see a rash like the one above on your body (it can appear up to 30 days after the bite) – go and see a doctor and they can do a blood test.
The good news is if it’s caught early Lyme Disease can be treated with antibiotics.
I don’t like the sound of any of this, I’m going to lie on the sofa with a blanket over me until they’ve gone.
That might not be totally necessary. Here are some tips that Lyme Disease Actionhave given us runners to try and keep us tick free.
Try to avoid running through areas of long grass or bracken
Try to avoid stretching out on long grass
If you do, use an insect repellent effective against ticks (look for those containing the chemical DEET)
Ensure you brush your clothing and bare skin off before going indoors
Check for ticks regularly and very carefully when you wash or shower after a run
Remove any ticks found attached as soon as possible.
If you want more information on Lyme Disease, visit the Lyme Disease Action website www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk. You can take the blanket off now.