The blood-sucking bug that won't leave you alone until it's full

A tick will latch onto your skin and drink until they can't hold any more of your blood
-Credit: (Image: Getty)

As the summer season is in full swing, people are being warned to be vigilant for ticks. These eight-legged parasites can often find their way into homes on the back of our pets but can jump straight to a human host.

Ticks are infamous as the sole known carriers of Lyme disease - a bacterial infection. The longer the tick remains attached to your skin, the higher the risk of infection. Therefore, swift removal is crucial.

The NHS has clarified that not all ticks in the UK carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. However, it's still vital to be aware of ticks and to remove them safely as soon as possible, just in case.

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This disease affects between 400 - 500 patients every year in the UK. High-risk areas include grassy and wooded regions in southern and northern England and the Scottish Highlands, reports Yorkshire Live.

How do you know if you've been bitten?

Tick bites aren't always painful, so you might not notice a tick unless you see it on your skin. If you don't find the tick and remove it first, it will fall off on its own once it is full.

This usually happens after a few days, but it can sometimes take up to two weeks. Always consult a doctor if you are unsure.

To safely remove a tick:

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers or a tick-removal tool, which you can purchase from some pharmacies, vets, and pet shops.

  2. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.

  3. Slowly pull upwards, taking care not to squeeze or crush the tick. Dispose of it when you have removed it.

  4. Clean the bite with antiseptic or soap and water.

How can I tell if I'm infected with Lyme disease?

According to the NHS website, an early sign of Lyme disease for some individuals is a circular or oval-shaped rash around the area of a tick bite. This rash can develop up to three months after being bitten by an infected tick, but typically appears between one and four weeks after exposure.

The rash may have a darker or lighter spot in the middle and might gradually expand. It's usually not hot or itchy.

Lyme disease can result in a rash that can sometimes look like a bullseye
Lyme disease can result in a rash that can sometimes look like a bullseye -Credit:NHS

Some individuals also experience flu-like symptoms a few days or weeks post being bitten by an infected tick, such as a high temperature, headache, muscle/joint pain, fatigue and loss of energy.

If you've been bitten by a tick - or visited an area in the past 3 months where infected ticks could be - and have flu-like symptoms or the characteristic round/oval shape rash, it's advised to see a GP.

What is the treatment for Lyme disease?

Lyme disease can be challenging to diagnose due to its similar symptoms to other conditions and the absence of an obvious rash at times. There are two types of blood tests available that your doctor can perform to help confirm or rule out Lyme disease.

If a GP suspects you may have Lyme disease, they'll prescribe a course of antibiotics. The type of antibiotics you're given will depend on your symptoms, but you may need to take them for up to 28 days.

Most individuals with Lyme disease recover post antibiotic treatment. This can take months for some people, but the symptoms should improve over time.

Is there a way to avoid contact with ticks?

The British Pest Control Association has advised that while it's challenging to completely prevent ticks from entering your home, there are measures you can take to minimise the risk:.

Ongoing symptoms of Lyme disease

Some individuals who have been diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease may experience persistent symptoms such as fatigue, body aches, and decreased energy levels that can endure for an extended period of time. These symptoms are frequently likened to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

It remains uncertain why this affects certain individuals while sparing others. Consequently, there is a lack of consensus on the appropriate course of treatment. It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional if your symptoms persist or fail to improve following antibiotic therapy.

The doctor may be able to offer you further support if needed, such as:

  • referral for a care needs assessment

  • telling your employer, school or higher education institution that you require a gradual return to activities

  • communicating with children and families' social care

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