HSE issues crucial Lyme disease warning ahead of summer months
As we prepare to enter summer, The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has issued a warning urging parents to protect themselves and their kids against Lyme disease – an infection spread by a tick bite.
“Ramblers, campers, mountain bikers, and others who work and walk in forested or grassy areas must be vigilant against tick bites”, says Dr. Paul McKeown, HPSC Specialist in Public Health Medicine. Lyme disease can, in a small number of cases, cause severe debilitating heart and nervous system disease.”
Ticks are tiny insects that feed on the blood of mammals and birds. As they are more numerous and more active in the summer months, the HSE is urging parents to do all they can to prevent getting bitten.
Tick bites can be prevented by:
- Wearing long trousers, long sleeved shirt and shoes
- Using an insect repellent, such as DEET (but use a low-strength DEET if you are pregnant – your local pharmacist can advise you)
- Checking skin, hair and warm skin folds (especially the neck and scalp of children) for ticks, after a day out
- Removing any ticks and consulting with a GP if symptoms develop
- If you have been walking your dog, check him/her too
If you find a tick on you or your child, the important thing is to remove it right away, as ticks generally have to be attached for a number of hours to pass on the infection. The entire tick should be carefully removed with tweezers to ensure there’s no part left on the skin. The skin should then be washed and monitored carefully for redness or swelling.
- Infected people often have no symptoms at all, but about ¾ of people develop a skin rash between 3 days and a month after a tick bite. The rash can be visible for up to a month and may grow to be several inches in diameter.
- People, who have been infected, can also develop flu-like symptoms such as headache, sore throat, neck stiffness, fever, muscle aches and general fatigue
Full recovery is generally the rule, but occasionally there may be much more serious complications involving the nervous system, joints, the heart or other organs. If your child develops a rash or other symptoms, visit their GP and explain that they have been bitten by a tick. The infection can be confirmed by special blood tests.
Further important information to protect against Lyme disease is available on the HPSC website: http://www.hpsc.ie/A-Z/Vectorborne/LymeDisease/