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Spring is in the Air - Enjoy the Countryside! Just remember to protect yourselves against sunburn and infectious disease.

Apr 18

Its spring, the clocks have gone forward, and now is the time to enjoy the countryside, parks and gardens again.

Just remember to protect yourselves against sunburn and infectious disease.

Jean Gladwin, Consultant in Public Health, Public Health Department, Bath & North East Somerset Council has some helpful advice on staying safe and healthy whilst outside:

Spring is here and many of us will be thinking of getting out into the garden and countryside. The first days of April have been very cold but the weather is warming up. Just remember to avoid sunburn by using sun screen, a hat and long sleeves, and prevent tick bites by wearing long sleeves, tucking trousers into socks and using an insect repellent. See your GP if you think you have been bitten by a tick and subsequently developed an infection.

Ticks and Lyme disease

As the weather gets warmer, people spend more time outdoors and ticks become more active. Ticks occur in all parts of Britain and the advice to prevent tick bites is the same wherever you are.

If you take part in outdoor activity in the countryside, parks and gardens with lots of wildlife such as squirrels, hedgehogs and deer you may be at risk of tick bites. Simple precautions can keep you safe.

Ticks can carry Lyme disease which affects humans. Symptoms usually begin a few days or weeks after a tick bite, but sometimes it can be months. The most common sign of Lyme disease is an expanding rash which resembles a bull's eye - round and with a central clearing; but it can be irregular and in some cases a rash is not seen. Other symptoms include flu-like illness and extreme fatigue.

If you think that you have been bitten by a tick speak to your GP, or pharmacist, and carefully remove the tick by using a specialist tick-removal tool or fine-tipped tweezers

Dogs and horses can also be affected by Lyme disease as well as humans.

Top tips to protect yourself and family against ticks and Lyme disease

  1. 1. Know where to expect ticks. Many areas in the UK with good ground cover and diverse wildlife can pose a potential risk as wildlife feeds any ticks and allows their population to increase. Animals can transport ticks to new areas.
  2. 2. Keep to paths and away from long grass or overgrown vegetation
  3. 3. Wear light coloured fabrics when outdoors, as it is easier to see ticks against a light background
  4. 4. Use a repellent, and read the instructions carefully.
  5. 5. Tuck your trouser legs into your socks. This helps deter ticks from crawling inside your trouser legs, down into your shoes and through most socks. Wearing gaiters will help prevent this.
  6. 6. Check your body carefully for ticks after being outdoors taking special care to check all over the body
  7. 7. Don’t bring ticks home. Check clothing and pets for ticks to avoid bringing them inside.
  8. 8. A shower or bath after returning from outdoors helps to reduce risk
  9. 9. Make sure that children’s head and neck areas, including scalps, are properly checked
  10. 10. Inspect skin frequently and removing any attached ticks
  11. 11. If you find a tick remove it carefully by using a specialist tick-removal tool or fine-tipped tweezers

Although Lyme disease is a relatively rare occurrence in Bath and North East Somerset, research from a local university has found that 5-10% of the ticks from the woodlands around the local area do carry the bacteria responsible. There have been a small number of local residents who have contracted the disease locally, and sometimes some people can catch the infection without showing many symptoms.

For more information see:
http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Lyme-Disease.htm for patient information, stages of the disease and useful pictures

http://www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk/ - for information from a national charity on ticks and Lyme disease for the public and professionals

http://tickbitepreventionweek.org/ - for more about tick bite prevention week and leaflets to download

http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/LymeDisease/ for more information from Public Health England (former Health Protection Agency)

Preventing sunburn, heat exhaustion and heat stroke

As the weather gets warmer many of us will be spending more time outdoors in gardens and the countryside. We all need to protect ourselves against sunburn. Sunburn is skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Too much exposure to UV light can make your skin red and painful, which can later lead to peeling or blistering. How severe the sunburn is can vary depending on your skin type and how long you are exposed to UV rays. However, the main symptoms of sunburn are red, sore and blistering skin. The symptoms may not occur immediately and can take up to five hours to appear.

Sunburn often occurs when the sun's rays are most intense (usually between 11am and 3pm). However, there is also a risk of getting burned by the sun in other weather conditions. Sunburn can lead to skin cancer, and too much sun exposure can lead heat exhaustion and heatstroke

The symptoms of heat exhaustion can develop rapidly. They include:

  • • very hot skin that feels 'flushed'
  • • heavy sweating
  • • dizziness
  • • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • • feeling sick (nausea)
  • • being sick (vomiting)
  • • a rapid heartbeat
  • • mental confusion
  • • urinating less often and much darker urine than usual

A person with heat exhaustion should be moved quickly to somewhere cool and given fluids (preferably water) to drink. They should then begin to feel better within half an hour.

However, certain groups are more at risk of developing heatstroke or suffering complications from dehydration, and should be taken to hospital.

The symptoms of heatstroke can include:

  • • mental confusion
  • • rapid shallow breathing (hyperventilation)
  • • loss of consciousness

Heatstroke is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately. Dial 999 to request an ambulance if you suspect heatstroke. While you're waiting for an ambulance to arrive, make sure that the person is as cool as possible. Move them to a cool area as quickly as possible, remove excess clothing and try to cool them by fanning them. If they're conscious, give them cool, not cold, water to drink.

Top tips for avoiding sun burn and heat exhaustion

You can reduce your risk of developing skin cancer by protecting your skin with sunscreen. Follow the advice listed below.

  • • Avoid strong sunlight whenever possible, particularly when the sun is strongest, and cover up with loose clothing and a hat.
  • • When buying sunscreen, choose one with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least factor 15 (the higher the better) which protects against both UVA and UVB rays
  • • Apply a generous amount of sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going out in the sun and reapply regularly (at least every 2-3 hours). Even water-resistant sunscreens should be reapplied after you come out of the water
  • • A stick application with a high SPF is useful for exposed areas, such as your nose, ears and lips. These areas tend to burn more easily.
  • • Keep babies and young children out of direct sunlight.

For more information see: video on Staying Safe in the Sun and NHS Choices website
http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/skin/Pages/Sunsafe.aspx