Matt Dawson: I had to have heart surgery after a tick bite

Matt Dawson: I had to have heart surgery after a tick bite: When former England rugby player Matt Dawson was bitten by a tick in a London park early last year, it caused a bacterial infection to spread through his body.

“I had two days where I felt awful. Very feverish, on the sofa, crashed out,” he said.

Eventually he went to hospital where he was diagnosed with Lyme disease:

“It was a really scary time for me and my family. Such a tiny creature caused me to end up needing heart surgery.”

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, passed on to humans by infected ticks.

While it is difficult to estimate the total number of UK cases, they are understood to have increased more than fourfold in the past 10 years.

The peak season is April to October, though they are active all year round.

  • In around two-thirds of cases, a distinctive rash called erythema migrans will develop in the days to weeks that follow the tick bite
  • It is often shaped like a bullseye, but not in all cases, and some individuals will have several rather than one
  • Flu-like symptoms are another strong indicator of Lyme disease
  • Facial palsy is common in children
  • Others may experience tingling or numbness in parts of the body and, rarely, severe headaches
  • If you get these symptoms and have also been bitten by a tick – or been out in a tick hotspot – then it is worth talking to your doctor
  • If left untreated, early localised Lyme can attack the nervous system and cause debilitating neurological problems
  • However, if you receive prompt antibiotic treatment, it can successfully treat the disease and prevent further illness

A World Cup winner in 2003, Dawson played 77 times for England and made seven appearances for the British and Irish Lions.

Matt said he was floored by his diagnosis: “I’d heard of Lyme disease before. It was something I’d always associated with places abroad, on the continent, in America, wherever there were deer.

“There’s no way that I would’ve walked through a wood or a forest with my kids and gone back home and thought, ‘right, I’ll just check for some ticks just to make sure everything is fine’. I just wouldn’t have thought of that.”


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