The NHS recently declared it is entering a new era. It involves technology in which patients can stay at home and be monitored remotely.
It is interesting news, but I enter a heartfelt plea. I want the NHS also to deal better with already existing conditions. Conditions seriously affecting the well-being of thousands. I want an NHS which is willing to listen and to follow evidence.
I give an example. In the UK in April 2022 the government published guidance about Lyme disease. It stated: “The most common symptom is a spreading, bulls-eye rash at the site of the tick bite which typically develops three to 30 days after being bitten.”
But this is misleading. Firstly, not all people bitten by a tick get the bulls-eye rash; secondly, it is possible to get Lyme disease from a tick-bite and not know it has happened, until some nasty symptoms show themselves.
The government states Lyme disease is an ‘uncommon infection’. But, oh! Listen to this. The government only counts the number of people who have had a test carried out by a recognised testing centre, tests which are notoriously uncertain.
Furthermore, GPs are not required to notify the authorities if they believe a patient has had a tick-bite, so the government simply cannot know the size of the problem.
In the US at least 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease are notified each year; in Germany between 50,000 and 60,000 people per annum get Lyme disease.
In the UK the government says there were 849 cases. Doesn’t add up, does it?
Public Health England estimates around 3,000 cases per annum… but that, of course, is just a guess.
In the US a study revealed more than 50 per cent of Lyme patients were still ill six to 12 months after a short-term course of antibiotics.
Ticks are nasty little creatures and can carry not one but several pathogens, and the result of a tick bite can involve heart problems, joint inflammation, long-term fatigue and ‘brain fog’.
In children it can mean seriously-disrupted education, and for adults, loss of work.
As we live in an area that is infested with ticks, the potential problem is huge.
What can be done? Preventive measures when going for walks can help: long trousers tucked into socks, long-sleeved shirts, light-coloured clothing so ticks can be spotted, plus tick repellent.
You can find out more from the courageous charity, Lyme Disease UK.
Lyme disease is a really serious issue. When will the government wake up and recognise it?
Lyme Disease UK tick bite prevention and removal tips
- Carry a tick removal tool with you at all times, if possible.
- Use a repellent when engaging in outdoor activities. Choose one that repels ticks, mosquitoes and other biting insects.
- Although ticks have been found in urban parks and gardens, it’s wise to take extra precaution in long grass, leaf litter and in wooded areas.
- When hiking or doing other outdoor activities, try to stick to pathways where there tends to be less long grass.
- Wear a long-sleeved top and tuck trousers into socks to reduce skin exposure. Light-coloured clothing may enable you to see ticks more easily.
- If you are taking part in a high-risk activity, it is possible to buy pre-treated clothing from camping or hunting shops that has been sprayed with the repellent permethrin or you can spray clothing and shoes with this product yourself (do not spray directly on skin and be aware it is toxic to cats).
- Check yourself, your children and your pets regularly for ticks when out and about and brush off any that are unattached.
- If you see an embedded tick, remove it as quickly as possible using the correct tick removal technique. If you are unable to remove the tick successfully, visit a doctor immediately, even if it means going to A&E.
- Have a shower when you get home and check yourself thoroughly for ticks. Also check any people or pets who were out and about with you and if bitten, put all clothes in the tumble dryer on the highest heat possible or wash your clothes at a high temperature.
- If you notice an EM rash or become unwell following a tick bite, see your GP immediately and mention your concerns about Lyme disease. Draw around the rash with a pen to monitor any changes and take photos. Please note that around one-third of Lyme disease patients never experience an EM rash and so it is important to look out for symptoms as well and keep a symptom journal.
- Familiarise yourself with the NICE Lyme disease guideline and the RCGP resources on Lyme disease, including the GP toolkit.