Warning to walkers over 'devastating' impact of Lyme Disease as lockdown eases

A young athlete from Lancashire whose dreams of competing in the Olympics were dashed when she contracted Lyme Disease is urging people to learn what they can do to protect themselves from the "devastating" illness.

Sophie Ward was aiming to compete as a swimmer in London 2012 when she was bitten by an infected tick.

She began experiencing severe muscle pains, infections and food intolerances and had to retire from sport.

Sophie went from a competitive swimmer to suffering debilitating pain and other health issues. Credit: Sophie Ward
Sophie wants people to be aware of how to prevent contracting Lyme Disease. Credit: ITV News

Sophie contracted the disease while on holiday in China, but ticks all over the UK can also carry the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease.

They live largely in grassy or wooded areas, and pass the infection to humans through a bite.

Sophie is now concerned that, as lockdown eases, more and more people will be visiting potential hotspots, without knowing what to do to protect themselves from contracting Lyme.

Not all ticks carry Lyme - but it can be caught anywhere in the UK. Credit: ITV News


  • use insect repellent

  • keep to footpaths and avoid long grass when walking

  • wear a long-sleeved shirt and trousers

  • tuck your trousers into your socks

  • wear light-coloured clothes (to help you spot a tick on them)

  • check yourself for ticks after walking - remember they are only as big as a poppy seed

  • check your children and pets for ticks after walking

Left untreated - Lyme Disease can cause serious and long-term health issues, affecting the joints, heart, brain and immune system.

But diagnoses can be difficult, as symptoms won't appear immediately.

Sophie began experiencing severe muscle pains, infections and food intolerances. Credit: Sophie Ward

The charity Lyme Disease UK says the earlier people seek help, the easier it is to treat:

The rash is often described as looking like a bull's-eye on a dartboard. Credit: NHS


It is important to note that not all symptoms will appear in every case. If in doubt, contact your GP.

  • Some people develop a circular red skin rash around a tick bite

  • a high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery

  • headaches

  • muscle and joint pain

  • tiredness and loss of energy

You can find out more information about what to look out for on the NHS website.

The government has various resources and guidance here.