Lyme Disease

Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks.

Ticks feed on the blood of other animals. If a larval tick picks up an infection from a small animal such as a vole or bird when it next feeds as a nymph it can pass the infection to the next animal or human it bites. This is how the disease is spread.

Ticks cannot jump or fly, but when ready for a meal will climb a nearby piece of vegetation and wait for a passing animal or human to catch their hooked front legs. This behaviour is known as questing. The tick will not necessarily bite immediately, but will often spend some time finding a suitable site on the skin, so it is important to brush off pets and clothing before going inside.” The Lyme Disease Action website is an accredited health information provider.

For outdoor practitioners’ such as Forest School Leaders, where their participants are potentially exposed to these ticks a high standard of understanding is required of how to reduce the chances of a tick ”questing”. Ticks can be found anywhere in the UK but NHS Choices webpage highlights the UK Hot Spots and these can be viewed here.

A strong regime of wearing long trousers and tucking these in to socks, long sleeves and ensuring the clothing is light in colour so any ticks attached can be seen clearer are a must. All outdoor clothing should be washed at a high temperature to ensure that any attached ticks are killed off during this wash cycle.

Below you will find some useful links relating to this subject:

http://www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk/

http://lymediseaseuk.com/

http://www.dermis.net/dermisroot/en/14922/diagnose.htm

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Lyme-disease/Pages/Introduction.aspx

https://www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk/encyclopaedia/l/article/lymedisease

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/ticks-and-lyme-disease

http://www.webmd.boots.com/travel/guide/ticks

Author:

Peter J Cook FRGS London

Peter holds a range of outdoor qualifications in climbing and mountaineering. Peter was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society, London in 2008 for his work in expedition leadership. Peter has organised and run expeditions to many parts of the developing world, with recent climbing and trekking expeditions to, Jordan, Morocco, Greece, Belize and Malaysia. Peter is organising an Climbing and Trekking Expedition to Wadi Rum, Jordan that is taking place from 6th to 20th October. If you would like further details on this expedition and how you can join please email Peter at: pete@remotefirstaid.com for the expedition programme 2017.

 

Tick

Ticks are not insects, rather they are arachnid arthropod parasites, loosely related to the spider family, and like spiders they have 8 legs rather than the 6 of insects. There are more than 800 species of tick, some have a hard carapace (hard ticks) whereas others have a leathery exoskeleton (soft ticks). The tick has three life stages, larva, nymph and adult – nymphs are often no larger than the head of a pin.

There is a common misconception that Ticks live in trees and drop down onto their victims from above, the reality is that they live in long grass, low-lying bushes and foliage, scrub and heath. Ticks are active all year round, but are most active from May to September (although this can vary considerably depending upon weather trends). Ticks can be found across the world, but are a particular problem throughout Europe, the United States, China and Japan. Within the UK Ticks are a particular hazard in certain areas, such as the New Forest, Thetford Forest and the Yorkshire / Cornish moorlands.

Tick_mouthparts-990x711
Tick Mouthparts

Ticks are parasites and live off the blood of humans and (more commonly) other animals including small rodents, pets, sheep, deer and birds. A Tick detects its victim through vibration and changes in temperature. Because of their habitat the first place that they will come into contact with humans is around the feet and lower legs. Ticks do not have teeth, but they attach themselves to their host by embedding their mouth into the skin – with hard ticks they will burrow their whole head into the skin where they can remain feeding for up to 72 hours. Unlike with other parasites there is no pain attached to the tick bite, and therefore this makes it very important to check yourself for ticks after leaving a high risk area.

A tick can cause serious problems – however these are more related to what the tick might be carrying rather than the tick itself. Through feeding ticks can transfer viruses, bacteria, smaller parasites or even poison to their hosts. This danger is increased if a tick is shocked or stunned in the process of removal – burning a tick off, stunning it with alcohol or smoothering it with vaseline can cause the tick to regurgitate saliva, greatly increasing the risk of transfer. Roughly pulling a tick out can also sometimes leave the head of the tick embedded in the skin – this also greatly increases the chance of infection.  The safest way to remove a tick is to use a pair of tick tweezers – these will grip the tick without shocking it and, (generally with a twisting motion) will remove the tick with the head intact.

Possibly the most dangerous bacteria that a tick can transmit to its host is the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria which is responsible for Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease is becoming more common across much of northern and central Europe, the northern United States and southern Canada, and in parts of Russia, China and Japan, it is a potentially debilitating disease that can lead to serious health problems or, in the most extreme cases, even death.

The Three Stages of Lyme Disease

Bullseye Rash1) A red ring-shaped rash (Erythema migrans), often known as a bullseye rash, appears around the site of the bite in approximately a third to a half of cases. Over the course of around three weeks this rash will slowly expand and then fade from the middle.

2) Flu-like symptoms may appear: headaches, exhaustion, joint and muscle pains in the arms and legs. These symptoms may last for a while, may come and go, and may eventually disappear

3) Severe joint pain, cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and nervous system disorders may appear, often months after the initial bite.

There is no vaccine against Lyme Disease, however, early treatment with antibiotics is generally successful at preventing any escalation or severe symptoms. Safe removal of a tick within 8 hours of being bitten gives the best chance of avoiding infection in the first place – however when bitten it is always sensible to record the date / time of the bite in case this information is required by a medical professional at a later time. Testing the tick for Lyme bacteria is another sensible step. If you are bitten and have any cause for concern, or show any of the symptoms of Lyme Disease then professional medical help should be sort as soon as possible.

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