Swimming, hiking, camping, and field sports are all great ways to stay fit and healthy. But outdoor activities can increase your chances of getting Lyme disease.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi which spreads in the bites of infected black-legged ticks. 1 Ticks are small, spider-like creatures that feed on the blood of mammals and birds. They usually live in long grasses or woodlands and are most active between April and September.
It’s important to note that not every tick is infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. However, if you do notice a tick bite, keep an eye out for symptoms.
Types of Lyme disease
Lyme disease has 3 subtypes:
- Early or localized Lyme disease
- Disseminated Lyme disease
- Late Lyme disease
Symptoms of Lyme disease will usually begin near the location of the bite and slowly spread through the body.
Symptoms of Lyme disease
The most common early sign of Lyme disease is a bullseye-shaped rash that can develop within days or weeks of the initial tick bite. This rash is present in 70-80% of cases.
Early Lyme disease symptoms
As the rash may or may not occur, it’s important to remember that flu-like symptoms are also a sign of early Lyme disease. These can include:
- Aching muscles
- Painful joints
- Swollen lymph nodes 2
Disseminated Lyme disease symptoms
If Lyme disease is untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body. Signs of disseminated Lyme disease can include:
- Further rashes on other parts of the body
- Sore, swollen joints
- (Rarely) Neurological symptoms like difficulty concentrating
Late Lyme disease symptoms
Lyme disease progresses in stages. Late Lyme disease usually develops between 6 to 36 months after the initial infected bite.
Late Lyme disease symptoms include:
- Severe headaches
- Neck stiffness
- Facial palsy or drooping
- Intermittent pain in tendons, joints, muscles, and bones
- Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat
- Dizziness or shortness of breath
- Nerve pain
- Inflammation of brain and spinal cord
- Shooting pain, numbness, or tingling in hands and feet 3
To prevent the severe effects of late Lyme disease, it’s important to detect Lyme disease early. If you experience any of these symptoms or think you may have been bitten by a tick, seek medical advice.
Preventing tick bites
As always, prevention is the best cure. There are some easy ways to lessen your chances of getting a tick bite.
When you’re outside:
- Where possible, avoid walking through long grass or densely wooded areas. If you cannot avoid this, try to stick to the middle of trails where long grasses have been flattened.
- Use a repellant that contains 20% DEET or higher.
- Wear light-colored clothing that covers your skin and tuck your trousers into your socks.
- Treat your clothing with products that contain 0.5% permethrin.
When you come back indoors:
- Check your clothing, gear, and pets for ticks.
- Tumble dry clothing on high heat to kill any undetected ticks.
- Shower within 2 hours of coming back indoors.
- Check your body thoroughly with the help of a mirror. Pay particular attention to places like under your arms, between your legs, in your belly button, or under your hair. 4
Take just a few simple precautions to make sure you have a fun, safe, stress-free time in nature.
Take care of yourself,