Keep off the long grass! Reducing your risk of lyme disease

Lyme disease has seriously affected several people I know and I urge you to be alert. This infectious disease is usually due to being bitten by a tick infected with a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. It can cause chronic ill health affecting the whole body and sometimes the brain. According to Public Health England, the condition is now endemic throughout most of the UK, in urban parks as well as the countryside.

You can reduce the risk by wearing long-sleeved tops and trousers and, where possible, keeping to paths with closely mown verges, advises the charity Lyme Disease Action. Check regularly for ticks on clothing and brush them off before they can bite. Also check folds in the skin, behind the knee and in the groin, where the pesky insects may hide. Insect repellents containing DEET may deter ticks but can cause adverse reactions in some people. If you find a tick, use a proprietary removal tool (from £5.50, lymediseaseaction. Please don’t pick it off with your fingers as I used to do with my horses before I learned the risks of infection.

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Two out of three infected people show a roughly circular red rash, often called a bull’s eye rash, which can develop two to 30 days after being bitten. Other most common early indications in adults are flu-like symptoms such as aching, fever, headache and sweating; sensitivity to light and sound; stiff neck; joint pain; fatigue; skin tingling, numbness or itching. In children, a headache and fever with loss of facial movement suggest infection. If you notice symptoms, go to a GP without delay. Early treatment with antibiotics may stop the disease. Blood tests plus clinical history are the basis for a diagnosis but anyone with a bull’s eye rash should be treated immediately.

Lyme Disease Action cautions that many GPs may be unfamiliar with the disease but Public Health England has now published Guidance on Lyme Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment, and a suggested referral pathway for patients:

Start snapping

Taking a daily photo of something pleasing, funny or meaningful and posting it online can help your wellbeing, according to a study by the University of Sheffield. ‘It encourages people to see the world creatively. They enjoy taking photos and looking back at them as a diary,’ says Dr Andrew Cox, co-author of the study. One participant with a stressful job said: ‘On days when I can barely stop to breathe, taking a moment is salutary – even focusing on an insect sitting on my computer.’ Another found it encouraged her to walk to the seafront. The online contact was found to help people manage loneliness and grief, while some retired people found it helped replace daily office chatter. So start snapping! I’ve just posted a pic of newly laid eggs given me by a neighbour.

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