What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which can be transmitted to humans through the bites of certain ticks. It’s a multisystemic illness, which means it can affect several different organs.
Early Lyme disease is characterised by chills and fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. If the infection isn’t recognised and is left untreated, the symptoms may become more severe as the illness progresses. Chronic Lyme disease may cause severe fatigue, mental health problems, arthritis, heart disease and various neurological symptoms.
What Are Ticks and Where Do They Live?
Ticks are small blood-feeding parasites. Their closest relatives are spiders, scorpions and mites. They’re most commonly found in warm and moist wooded and grassy areas.
Which Ticks Carry Lyme Disease?
Hard ticks are the main vectors of Lyme disease all around the world. They’re distinguished from soft ticks by the presence of a hard plate on their backs. The species of ticks most likely to transmit the bacteria are the sheep tick (Ixodes Ricinus) in Europe and the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) in the United States.
Is There a Link Between Global Warming and the Rising Number of Lyme Disease Cases?
Global warming may contribute to the spread of Lyme disease, since ticks thrive in climates with higher temperatures and greater humidity levels. As winters get warmer and warmer, more potential host animals, such as deer, tend to survive. This gives ticks more opportunities to feed on blood, which means they can produce more offspring. Also, as temperatures rise, people tend to spend more time outdoors, increasing their exposure to ticks.
Do Ticks Prefer A Certain Blood Type?
So, what attracts ticks? Are they drawn to people with a certain blood type? There’s some evidence that ticks may be able to sense certain features of a person’s physiological or biochemical profile, such as their blood type. Research has also shown that ticks may prefer some blood groups to others.
Indeed, an individual’s blood group may partially determine their likelihood of being bitten by ticks. This means that blood type can potentially impact a person’s risk of contracting certain illnesses.
Ticks seem to have a tendency to avoid hosts with type B blood and gravitate towards those with type A blood instead. Therefore, people with type A blood might be slightly more likely to be infected with Lyme-causing bacteria.
Are Some People More Susceptible to Lyme Disease Than Others?
Although Lyme disease can affect people of all ages, those with weaker immune systems tend to experience more severe symptoms. Those who spend a lot of time outdoors in warm weather, especially camping, hiking, golfing and working in wooded and grassy areas, are at a higher risk of exposure.
How To Protect Yourself From Tick Bites
The best way to avoid being bitten by ticks is through awareness. It’s important to understand that ticks can’t jump or fly. Instead, they patiently wait on grass or the leaves of bushes and trees until a human or animal comes close enough, so they can attach to them.
If you find yourself in a potentially tick-infested area, you need to take special care to prevent tick bites. Always keep to the centre of the trail while hiking in forests. Wearing long sleeves and long trousers and tucking your trousers into your socks can greatly reduce your chance of being bitten. It’s also a good idea to wear light-coloured clothing, so it’s easier to notice any ticks on yourself.
Be sure to check for ticks on your clothing and skin regularly during any outdoor activities! Once you’ve returned home, carefully check your whole body for ticks in front of a mirror. The sooner you remove any ticks that have attached to you, the lower your risk of contracting an infection.
What Should You Do if You’ve Been Bitten by a Tick?
If you find a tick on yourself or someone else, it must be removed as soon as possible! Using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick very close to the skin, and pull it straight out with a gentle but steady upward motion. Avoid twisting and pinching ticks, and never use your bare hands to handle ticks. Once you’ve removed the tick, clean the area around the bite with rubbing alcohol, and wash your hands with warm water and soap.
Keep an eye on the bite over the next few weeks! If you develop a rash at the area surrounding it, you’re likely to have contracted Lyme disease. However, if there’s no rash, that doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t been infected. If you have flu-like symptoms shortly after visiting a forest, moorland or grassy area, you should arrange to see a doctor. You need to tell them about the tick bite and the exact location where it happened, so they can assess the probability of Lyme disease.
If your doctor thinks you’re likely to have been infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, they will prescribe a course of antibiotics. Doctors don’t normally prescribe antibiotics unless they have a very good reason to believe you’ve contracted Lyme disease.
The sooner you get diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome. Try to find a Lyme-aware doctor if you suspect you may have contracted the illness!