Ticks and Lyme Disease

Lyme disease, or 'Borreliosis', is a bacterial infection passed to humans through a tick bite. Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures with three life-cycle stages, the smallest of which is about the size of a pinhead. They are frequently found in woodland, moorland and other grassy areas, where they feed on the blood of mammals and birds. They are usually found close to the ground, especially in moist, shaded areas. They attach themselves to the host for up to a week and swell as they feed.

The first symptom of Lyme disease is often a rash (erythema migrans) that can appear 3 to 30 days after the tick bite. It starts as a small red dot at the bite site but may grow larger with time. The centre of the spot often fades creating a characteristic “bull’s-eye” appearance. Other symptoms include fever, chills, headaches, stiff neck, fatigue, muscle aches and joint pain. Occasionally, a severe form of Lyme disease can develop and the heart, joints or the nervous system can be affected.

Avoid tick bites

  1. Walk in the middle of paths/trails; avoid overgrown vegetation.
  2. Wear shoes, not sandals or bare feet.
  3. Wear long trousers tucked into socks or boots.
  4. Consider using an insect repellent containing DEET. Follow the manufacturers’ application guidelines.
  5. Wear white or light coloured clothing to make ticks more visible and inspect clothes every 3-4 hours.
  6. At the end of your day out, check yourself (and your children) for ticks. Check both skin and hair, particularly warm moist areas such as the groin, backs of knees, armpits and neck. Pay particular attention to the head, neck and scalp of children. Check your pets for ticks after outdoor activities too.

What to do if you find a tick…

Firstly—don’t panic! Ticks need to be attached for 24—48 hours before infection takes place.

Remove the tick with tweezers, gripping close to the skin.

Wash the area with soap and water.

There may be a bit of redness and swelling after this. This is normal. However, if a rash or other symptoms develop, a doctor should be contacted.

For more information see:

Health Protection Surveillance Centre: Lyme disease page www.hpsc.ie/hpsc/A-Z/Vectorborne/LymeDisease