Cases of Lyme disease are on the rise - in fact, it’s estimated they’ve quadrupled in the past decade here in the UK.
Just this week, former England rugby player Matt Dawson revealed he was forced to have heart surgery after being bitten by a tick. “It was a really scary time for me and my family,” he told the BBC.
Worried you might have been bitten by a tick? Here are the symptoms to look out for.
What is Lyme Disease?
Public Health England estimates there are 2,000 to 3,000 cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year.
According to the NHS, the disease is caused by a type of bacteria that is present in many animals, including mice, deer and pheasants.
If a tick bites one of these animals, it becomes infected. It can then pass the bacterial infection on to humans by biting them.
It’s useful to know that being bitten by a tick doesn’t immediately lead to infection. Dr Richard Besser previously told ABC News: “You think it bites you and you get the infection but actually you have about 36 hours from the time of the bite to remove it before you get sick.”
What are the symptoms?
One of the first signs of an infected tick bite is a rash, which looks like a bull’s eye on a dart board. Other early symptoms include aching joints and muscles, plus a stiff neck and fever.
Symptoms are thought to begin showing at around 30 days after a person has been bitten.
If the condition is left untreated, symptoms can progress to numbness of the limbs and temporary paralysis of your facial muscles.
In rare cases, Lyme disease can lead to inflammation of the heart muscles, which can cause the heart to beat irregularly.
What treatment is available?
Oral antibiotics are the most common treatment used for Lyme disease. Antibiotic injections are sometimes used in severe cases.
But prevention is better than treatment - if you’re walking in long grass, wear long clothes and tuck your socks into your trousers to avoid being bitten in the first place.
The good news is that if Lyme disease is spotted early, treatment can be effective.