What do Richard Gere, Avril Levigne, Ben Stiller and Yolanda Foster have in common?  As well as talent, fame and wealth these unfortunate celebrities are just some of the high profile people who suffer from Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria carried by some ticks which they can pass on to humans and animals when they deliver a painless bite.  Ticks are tiny pinhead size creatures from the spider family that live in grass and bushes.

Once they latch on to a human or animal they feed on blood for several days, swelling to the size of a pea before dropping off to complete their life cycle.  Early signs of infection can include a spreading red rash and feeling generally unwell with flu-like symptoms.

At this stage a course of antibiotics can stop the infection getting any worse.  So if you have a tick attached, particularly if it has been there for more than 24 hours, and you develop a rash around the bite, feel feverish and weak or if you develop flu like symptoms you should see a GP or visit the Emergency Department as soon as possible to start treatment.

Public Health Specialty Registrar Andrew Rideout has some good advice for anyone taking to the great outdoors and who might encounter ticks on their travels.  He said:  “With the good weather we’ve been having now is a great time to enjoy the fantastic outdoor opportunities that Dumfries and Galloway is famous for.


“There are so many reasons to go outside from adrenaline sports like mountain biking and kayaking to more sedate pastimes like fishing or photography.  Regular outdoor exercise is great for our physical and mental health but it is important to take care in the countryside.


“There are some simple steps we can take to reduce the risk of developing Lyme disease from an infected tick.  You should wear long trousers tucked into socks and long sleeves when you are in heavy undergrowth and use insect repellents like DEET or Permethrin.  If you are planning to spend lots of time outdoors in risky areas you can get clothing that has been treated with Permethrin.


“If you can’t cover up then please remember to check your body and clothing for ticks whenever you leave a risky area.  Before they bite ticks can easily be brushed off but once they attach themselves they must be removed using special tick removers, thread loops or fine pointed tweezers.”


So the message is clear – enjoy the outdoors but take sensible precautions unless you want to have something unpleasant in common with Avril, Ben, Richard and Yolanda.