Skip to content

Policy for Prevention of Lyme Disease on Forest School Camps

Adapted from Discussion paper for Council Saturday 7th October 2017 by Giles Vellacott

Tick 2: Angharad Walters October 2017


Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. It can be transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tick. It can be difficult to diagnose.

There have been no national surveys of the incidence of Lyme infected ticks in England or Wales, although a Scottish survey shows the majority of Scotland to have some level of infection. Infection rates are higher with warmer conditions, and are fuelled by rising deer populations. There are FSC camp sites where we know there are high levels of infection (Marlborough, Dorset and the Mendips) but ticks and Lyme Disease could be found on any of our sites and there is no reason to assume any woodland or pastures with ticks are free of Lyme Disease.

Public Health England suggest there are 3,000 human cases per annum in the UK, although the figure could be much higher. Hospital reports are rising at around 40% per annum and not just as a result of increased awareness.

Only a small minority of ticks are infected, even in an area where the disease is present. There is very little chance of a tick passing infection to a human in less than 24 hours attachment (even 48 hours). The infective organism is dormant in the tick’s gut until it responds to blood sucked from the tick’s victim. It then becomes active and moves to the tick’s saliva glands, then into the person where it may cause Lyme Disease. If the tick is removed within 24 hours infection is unlikely.

We should expect thousands of ticks to be removed for every one case of disease developing. However, the fact that we have had no disease following a particular camp does not mean that the site is free of Lyme Disease.

Learning to manage risks and do challenging things safely is an important part of our way of life and training our campers to manage this increasing risk whilst enjoying the countryside is a responsibility we should not shirk. As part of its duty of care, FSC should advise children, parents and staff of the risk, take reasonable precautions at camp and ensure that parents and staff have received appropriate advice before and after camp. The emphasis should be on raising awareness of the possibility of Lyme Disease as it ispossible to have had a tick attached and be unaware of it.

Suggested Actions

  1. We should put an entry in the Programme, and amend the CO-C6a Medical Guidance 2016 that goes out with pre-camp circular explaining that ticks are commonly found on the pastures and woodlands we use as camp sites. Numbers are increasing, and that it is likely that a small proportion will carry Lyme Disease. This can be passed to campers, but we will take practical precautions at camp to minimise the risk.
  2. This should be backed up by a request for suitable clothing and personal insect repellent (specifying ingredient/relevant brands) in the Kit list for all camps.
  3. On camp actions which may help:
    Where ticks are anticipated on camp:
    • Where possible before camp starts, topping (rough mowing) of long grass and bracken to provide cleared areas for campers would be very helpful. Request this of landowners / farmers to happen prior to camp start. Giles Vellacott reports the owner of the Marlborough site is keen to help, and this would be a useful measure. It might be practical to scythe small areas or paths where a lot of traffic is expected.
    • Rigorous application of recommended repellents three times daily (when getting up, lunch and tea time). Consideration of some camp supplies of repellent bought for communal use to demonstrate good practice (similar to the way we use sun cream). Kit list to specify which repellents most effective.
    • Where it is necessary to enter areas where ticks are being picked up, wear long trousers or waterproof trousers, tucked into long socks. Discourage children from playing in bracken, long grass etc. when we know there are ticks.The most important action (given that none of the above are may be possible in all cases) Daily Inspections for and removal of ticks – all children on a daily basis, in the morning before rally or in the evening of each day to minimise the length of time ticks are attached. Exactly how this is arranged could be discussed in conjunction with the group e.g. TS and older could be paired up to help each other check difficult to reach areas. This should include the head, neck and hairline of esp. younger children.Where ticks are not anticipated:
  4. The standard first aid kit always includes tick removers, guidance on their use and advice on suitable repellents. It should also contain ‘Lyme Disease – Brief Guide to Childcare on camp’ document. Suitable prevention methods can be put into place if ticks are evident after all.
  5. A letter immediately at the end of camp to go out via organiser/CC to all parents and staff re ticks on camp. Reference will be made again to basic information about Lyme disease awareness and a letter for GPs will also sent to parents should they need to seek medical advice.

Further information: