Explainer: Lyme disease, how do you get it and what to look for

Explainer: Lyme disease, how do you get it and what to look for

Lyme disease - AnastasiaKopa Shutterstock.com

Lyme disease is once again in the news with a rise in ticks across Spain, the UK and most of Europe.

Spread by a variety of ticks, but not all, Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted to humans by ticks that are infected. Not all ticks spread the virus, however, it is not the only virus that they do spread with many more severe illnesses transmitted through tick bites.

Treatable if diagnosed early, the virus can also lead to some people becoming severely ill.

How do you get Lyme Disease?

Ticks are highly prevalent during the summer months and are often found on long grass, on bushes and in open fields.

Walking through open fields and mountains can result in ticks transferring from surrounding vegetation to legs and arms. Once on the host, the tick will feed, which means that it will bite and suck the blood of its host, a process that can lead to infections being passed on.

Spotting and removing ticks

You may not notice that you have picked up a tick as their bits are not always painful.

Undertaking a visual check if you have been in a place where ticks may be prevalent is the best way to ensure that you are clean. This is particularly important for small children who are more likely to be exposed, as it is with pets who can also carry these before transferring them to owners.

Tick – Evgeniyqw Shutterstock.com

With pets it is not uncommon to find that a tick has dropped off of its host in your home, so be vigilant and know what to look for.

To remove a tick safely:

There are two options to remove a tick, important that you remove the head as well as the body.

The first is to use a surgical spirit which will cause the tick to let go of its host. The second and possibly the most common method, especially if outdoors and away from home is:

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers, long fingernails or something similar
  1. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible
  2. Slowly pull upwards, taking care not to squeeze or crush the tick
  3. Destroy the tick and dispose of it safely
  4. Clean the bite with antiseptic or soap and water.

What symptoms should I look for

A circular or oval shape rash that can have a darker or lighter area in the centre will appear in most people. The rash may be flat, or slightly raised, and look pink, red, or purple when it appears on white skin.

For those with darker skin, it may look more like a bruise.

Flu-like symptoms may also present in a few days or weeks after the bite, including:

  • a high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery
  • headache
  • muscle and joint pain
  • tiredness and loss of energy

When should I panic?

Lyme Disease can take up to three months after being bitten to show, but it is more likely to show up between one and four weeks afterwards.

With treatment readily available one shouldn’t panic but if you do suspect its Lyme Disease, you should see a health professional. It is not urgent but it should not be left either as the symptoms can worsen or it can become more difficult to treat.

With the hot weather, many of us are spending more time outdoors and in the countryside and that can lead to tick bites and Lyme disease.

Finally, if you are going hiking or walking in natural areas take precautions and do check for ticks on your return.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.