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Lyme Disease : Signs and Symptoms

Many of us in the Richmond Borough have Bushy Park close by, an amazing place to walk with fabulous scenery. You may have well seen signs in the park with information about Lyme disease but did you know that tick season isn't just during the Spring and Summer but actually mid March to mid May and mid August to November? Wet weather and warmer temperatures make ticks active for longer in the year, something to keep in mind.

Unfortunately, this is a topic close to my heart as my sister was unaware that she had been bitten by a tick and ended up severely ill and spending a long time in hospital. At one point the doctors told us that it was touch and go as the Lyme disease had spread, resulting in sepsis of the bladder, underlying meningitis, limited use on one side of her body and a total breakdown of her immune system. It was an incredibly frightening time but its important to note that her case is rare. The majority of people are aware that they have been bitten and removal of a tick within 24 hours means that it greatly reduces the chance of contracting the disease.

What is Lyme Disease - The disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected tick - spider like creatures found in moorland and woodland and they feed off the blood of humans, birds and other mammals. The earlier the diagnosis, the easier it is to treat, normally with antibiotics. It can cause a circular rash around the tick bite which may be flat or slightly raised. On white skin it can look pink or purple, and on darker skins it may appear like a bruise. A rash can develop 3 to 30 days after being bitten and it can cause flu like symptoms, brain fog, fatigue, heart issues, muscle and joint pains and swollen lymph nodes. In my sisters case because it went undiagnosed, she thought that she had a nasty case of flu which t led to an even more serious condition with a huge impact on her immunity. She had no sign of a rash.

How to avoid being bitten - Avoid long grass and stick to the paths. Wear trousers instead of shorts and tuck them into socks. Keep long hair tied back. Don't sit on the ground or on stone walls. Ticks can’t jump but they do crawl. Like many insects they dislike aromas like mint, rosemary, lavender and garlic - try applying essential oils as an insect repellant. If you don’t have any of these oils then try spraying a normal insect repellant. Lavender can be applied neat to the skin but any other oil must be diluted in a carrier oil. If you don't have any essential oils then try spraying a normal insect repellent.

How do you remove a tick - Use a special tick remover or fine tipped tweezers, taking care not to touch the tick with your bare hands. It is important to check that you have removed the whole tick (sometimes the legs can still be intact on the skin) Once removed wash the area with disinfectant or apply tea tree oil. If you are at all  concerned, ask your doctor for antibiotics as a preventative measure. Do not put the tick down the toilet as it can survive and possibly spread further disease. Sources recommend dipping the tick in alcohol and wrapping it in strong tape before disposing of it in the waste.

I’m aware that my sisters case was extreme, but I hope this article encourages readers to be more mindful when enjoying our beautiful park.