How to avoid, recognize and treat this invisible threat to your running health
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease can strike anyone at any time. It is an infection spread by tick bites.
It attacks the nerves, brain, heart, joints, and eyes, and can also cause skin rashes and fevers.
Research suggests 1/3 or more of Lyme patients still have symptoms after antibiotic treatment.
Sometimes symptoms last weeks or months, but in some cases they are permanent.
Lyme disease is spreading at 14% a year throughout Europe.
Lyme is the commonest and fastest-spreading disease in Europe that is caught from biting creatures.
Avoiding tick bites
Tick bites are the main source of Lyme disease infection. In the UK they can also spread Anaplasma and Q-fever.
When and where are ticks found?
Ticks are active from May to September, but the symptoms of Lyme disease can take up to 3 months to develop after being bitten.
Ticks are found all over the UK, in gardens and parks as well as forests and the countryside.
How do I prevent tick bites?
1. Wear clothes that cover your skin, especially your legs.
2. Tuck clothes in. Tuck trousers tightly into socks or boots.
3. Spray permethrin on your clothes (NOT your skin).
4. After a walk in the countryside, throw your clothes into the tumble dryer for 30 minutes to kill any ticks that may be on them. If a tick drops off in your house it can hide for weeks, waiting to crawl onto its next meal.
5. After working out, runners should shower as soon as possible. Ticks generally prefer warm, moist areas, so conduct a full-body tick check in a large mirror (checking under the arms, in and around ears, hair, inside the belly button, behind knees, between legs, and around the waist). You could also tumble dry workout clothes to kill any ticks that may have smuggled their way into your shorts.
6. Use a picnic cloth. Don’t sit directly on grass.
It is not practical to spray insect repellent on your children every time they play outside, but you can give them a picnic blanket. Some British parks and gardens are infested with ticks.
7. Spray repellent containing DEET onto the skin.
Be thorough. Ticks crawl over skin coated in deet and bite the one spot you missed. For children who may roll on grass, cover the back of the neck as well. Deet can be used safely on any part of the body except the face.
Tick bite first aid
If you find an attached tick ...
1. Do NOT DELAY removing the tick. Prompt removal reduces the risk of Lyme disease.
The longer ticks are attached, the higher the risk of catching Lyme disease
2. Use a tick remover tool or narrow, pointed tweezers if possible. If you have no alternative, use long fingernails or scrape the tick off sideways using a credit card.
Never use blunt eyebrow tweezers.
Never delay removing a tick while trying to obtain a tick remover tool.
Scraping a tick off with nails or a credit card will leave the feeding parts embedded, and the bite could go septic. This is LESS risky than leaving the body of the tick attached for longer, and risking Lyme disease.
3. Lift straight upwards, pulling firmly and steadily. Do not squeeze the tick’s body.
If you don’t manage to get the feeding parts out, the bite could go septic but this is not Lyme disease.
4. Disinfect the bite area and wash your hands with soap.
5. Don’t put substances on the tick.
Putting vaseline, nail varnish or any other substance on a tick, or distressing it in any way while feeding, will make it more likely to regurgitate Lyme disease bacteria into your body.
BEWARE of misinformation about tick removal online!
DO NOT do any of the following: burn the tick, smother the tick in Vaseline, rub around it with a cotton bud, squeeze the tick, stick tape over it, try to pull it out with ordinary eyebrow tweezers, or do anything to it while it is attached and feeding other than removing it as described above. Distressing a feeding tick will make it more likely to regurgitate Lyme disease bacteria into your body.