A tiny tick can change your whole life

A tiny tick changed coach Steve Manser’s life for ever, here’s how, and what to do to stop lyme disease.

>>> 3 first aid essentials for mountain bikers

lyme disease

““I got lyme disease out riding but I’m not going to let it take over”

What’s the riskiest aspect of mountain biking? Slithering down a steep chute? Sending a jump for the first time? Guinea pigging a step down? It turns out a tiny tick could be the most dangerous feature you’ll tackle this summer, as Steve Manser, 49, found out.

“After a long week of building trails back in 2016 I found a tick on myself in the shower,” Steve says. “I thought nothing of it at the time and continued with my busy life of riding and coaching.”

Ticks are tiny little spider creatures that hang out in bracken or long grass waiting for a host animal to come past. Not much bigger than a poppy seed, they bite and attach themselves. Ticks don’t have any preferences; to them a mountain biker is simply meals-on-wheels.

“Next month, I was sent home from work felling unwell,” Steve says. “It was unusual as I never give in to flu, but this time I was totally wiped out. I visited my local GP to be told it was only a virus but a few evenings later I was in A&E with chest and burning pains in my bones. I had never felt anything like it.

“My visits to hospital continued for the next 17 months. I had every test going and over 100 blood tests. Each time I questioned the doctors about lyme disease but I was told it had been tested for. However, the night fevers, pain in the hands and knee joints, burning pain in the back, neck and shoulders, eye and memory issues, fatigue and poor sleep added up to only one thing. Despite the lack of positive test, it is lyme disease. The current blood tests are not 100% accurate and cannot rule it out.”

“I am sports coach and I love mountain biking so I am not going to let this take over. I still cycle every day. I have changed my diet turning it on its head, eating cleaner and greener. I stopped alcohol, sugar, dairy and processed foods, all of which has made a big difference. I have had to stop racing but now I concentrate more on coaching. I know at the end of the day I will be in bed for 9pm but it’s a small sacrifice to continue doing what I love.”

Stop the ticks

Lyme Disease is on the rise, and you can get it any time of year, but spring and summer are prime time, particularly in long grass and high bracken.

Wear long socks and use insect repellent – you can actually buy riding kit with something called permethrin in, a pesticide, that will kill ticks. Got a tick on you? If you see a tick on our body use a tick removal tool or very fine tweezers, ensuring all parts of the tick are removed.

The critters need to be attached for 16 hours before they will transmit the disease too, so checking yourself over after a summer ride is probably worth your while.

Diagnosing and treating Lyme Disease

Lyme disease can be hard to diagnose. Tick bites are easily missed as they are not normally itchy or painful, although you may get a ‘bulls-eye’ rash around the bite. Other symptoms to look out for are ‘summer flu’, headaches, fatigue, joint pain and behaviour changes.

Early treatment is key so visit your GP as soon as possible if you have a rash or symptoms and let them know about the tick bite.
A course of antibiotics should be prescribed immediately and the Royal College of General Practitioners states that antibiotics should be repeated until all symptoms cease. Early treatment with antibiotics normally leads to complete and rapid recovery.