As we enter the summer months with people more likely to engage in outdoor pursuits, the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) is urging people to protect themselves against Lyme disease, an uncommon infection spread by infected biting tick.
“Ramblers, campers, mountain bikers, and others who work and walk in forested or grassy areas must be vigilant against tick bites”, says DrPaul 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 spider-like creatures that feed on the blood of mammals and birds and will also feed on the blood of humans and occasionally dogs. Ticks are more numerous and more active in the summer months and protecting against tick bites protects against Lyme disease. The most effective way to prevent Lyme disease is by preventing tick bites” continued Dr McKeown.
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 and if you have been walking your dog, check him/her too.
If you find a tick, remove it – consult your GP if symptoms develop. Further important information to protect against Lyme disease is available on the HPSC website: http://www.hpsc.ie/A-Z/Vectorborne/LymeDisease/.