About Ticks and Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an increasingly common bacterial infection that is acquired from the bite of an infected tick. The tick which transmits infection in Western Europe is Ixodes ricinus (also known as a deer tick, sheep tick, castor bean tick, or "sciortan" in Irish).

Tick-Bite Prevention

The best way to avoid becoming infected with Lyme disease is to avoid bring bitten by ticks. Ticks crawl; they do not fly, jump or drop out of trees. Ticks are generally found in tall grass or leaf litter, usually no more than 1 metre above the ground. Ticks can be active for most of the year but most bites occur during the warmer months.

Tick Removal

If an attached tick is found, it is important to remove it promptly and properly. The longer the tick is attached, the greater the risk of infection.

Use fine pointed tweezers or a tick removal tool.

DO NOT apply liquids, gels or heat to the tick; these rarely cause it to release and may make removal more difficult.

Lyme Disease Symptoms

Early Lyme Disease Symptoms

Most people who become infected with Lyme disease do not recall a tick-bite. Symptoms of early Lyme disease are likely to appear between 2 and 30 days after a tick bite. The best known symptom of early disease is the erythema migrans or EM rash, which can occur at the site of the tick bite. Sometimes multiple rashes are present. Untreated EM rashes expand and clear over days to weeks though some have been known to last over a year. EM rashes are usually solid coloured, ranging from faint pink to deep red.

Lyme Disease Diagnosis

Lyme Disease is often a clinical diagnosis, based on a person's exposure to ticks, their symptoms, and their physical examination findings. Because symptoms and findings may differ from patient to patient, making the diagnosis can be difficult. Commercial laboratory tests for Lyme Disease are unreliable and insensitive, missing a substantial number of actual cases. Negative test results do not rule out Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease Treatment

Antibiotics are used to treat Lyme Disease. ILADS treatment guidelines recommend 4-6 weeks of doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime for cases of early Lyme disease. This should be effective for the majority of people. Treatment may be extended if symptoms remain.

If not treated promptly and sufficiently. Lyme Disease may become persistent and longer courses of antibiotics may be necessary. Treatment failures have been documented even in the best circumstances.

Other Tick-borne Diseases

Ticks carry multiple bacteria, viruses and parasites that can be transmitted individually or along with Lyme Disease bacteria. It is not unusual to get more than one infection from a single tick bite.

Potential infections include babesioais, anaplasmosis, ehlichiosis, bartonellosis, and others. Some of these diseases do not respond to the antibiotics commonly used to treat Lyme disease. Each infection must be appropriately treated in order for a person to get well.