Lyme Disease - What You Need to Know

Think you know all you need to about ticks and Lyme disease? Think again, says John Burns. In this episode of his Outside In podcast, expert Julia Knight from Lyme Disease UK debunks some common misconceptions, and offers useful advice on tick bite prevention, and obtaining a diagnosis.

A bacterial infection that can be spread to humans via infected ticks, Lyme disease can be life changing, with debilitating symptoms such as tiredness, brain fog and aches and pains that can last for years. Symptoms are often compared with fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. If treated early it can be dealt with, yet it often goes undiagnosed, explains Julia Knight, and thanks to Long Covid it may now be more likely than ever to be mistaken for other illnesses.

Paths are soon lost to undergrowth if they fall into neglect  © Dan Bailey
Ticks love deep vegetation like bracken - cover up, apply repellent, and don't sit down. Photo: Dan Bailey

Here she explains how to avoid tick bites, and the signs and symptoms to be aware of:

To mark International Lyme Awareness Month, charity Lyme Disease UK are carrying out their sixth 'Wake Up to Lyme' campaign this May.

Lyme disease is more common than we tend to believe. According to Lyme Disease UK:

  • Ticks can be as small as poppy seeds and so careful checking is key.
  • Whilst some areas are considered higher risk, ticks have been found throughout the UK in urban parks and gardens, as well as in rural areas with long grass and woodland.
  • A third of dogs checked in a study had ticks attached, which their owners did not know about. 
  • There are around 3000 new cases of Lyme disease each year in England and Wales, according to Public Health England.
  • Cases may be up to three times higher than estimated as this figure is based on positive blood test results and excludes all clinical diagnoses of Lyme disease, including people diagnosed based on the presence of a Lyme disease (EM) rash.
  • A third of people don't get an EM (Erythema migrans), Lyme disease rash which is diagnostic of the disease.
  • While Covid can cause flu-like symptoms, so too can Lyme disease. To see how you might tell the difference, go here.

Site of a bite - not quite the classic bulls eye  © Helen Howe
Site of a bite - not quite the classic bulls eye
© Helen Howe

Tick removal devices: twister and lasso  © Helen Howe
Tick removal devices: twister and lasso
© Helen Howe

For more info on the subject, see this article by first aid expert Helen Howe:

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