This is how you can now avoid tick bites and protect yourself from Lyme disease

The risk of getting sick from a tick bite while doing outdoor sports is increasing. These tips will help prevent a tick bite. Plus: This is how you act correctly after a trick

 

Social distancing and good weather are increasingly bringing people to the surrounding parks and forests this summer, for running, outdoor workouts or simply relaxing. But be careful: This year, due to the mild winter, there are a particularly large number of ticks that can transmit dangerous diseases. In addition, according to Robert Koch Institute (RKI) 3 new are R isikogebiete added to the already existing 161. Virologist Dr. Gerhard Dobler explains what you can do to avoid a tick bite and what measures you can take to protect you from illness after a bite:

Why are tick bites so dangerous?

A tick bite is harmless as long as the tick does not carry any pathogens. However, if the tick is infected with early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE) viruses or borreliosis bacteria, these can get into the body of the ‘blood host’, i.e. your body, via the bloodsucker.

It is most dangerous when you are infected with TBE viruses : These attack the meninges and the central nervous system of humans and in some cases can lead to severe disease and even death. According to the Robert Koch Institute, a total of 444 TBE diseases were reported in Germany in 2019, two sick people died from it.

By Lyme disease bacteria , also called Borrelia, also tens of thousands of people are diagnosed each year in Germany. They can cause severe pain, heart problems, meningitis, and joint inflammation.

What parts of the body do ticks bite?

“A tick bite can occur on any part of the body,” says Dr. Gerhard Dobler, specialist in microbiology, virology and infection epidemiology and head of the department for virology and rickettsiology at the Bundeswehr Institute for Microbiology in Munich, “However, it is known that ticks particularly love soft, moist, well-perfused and thin areas of skin.” Therefore, these parts of the body are very popular with ticks:

  • Belly folds (especially in men),
  • Breast folds (especially in women),
  • Armpit,
  • Groin area,
  • Back of the knees.

In contrast to adults, children are more likely to have a tick on their head. “A tick on the head, for example on the neck or ear, is no more dangerous than on other parts of the body. Pathogens such as the TBE virus and Borrelia, which ticks can transmit when biting, can be dangerous,” says Dr. Dobler.

How do you remove a tick correctly?

  1. Grab the tick as close as possible and remove it slowly and in a controlled manner. This prevents the tick from being squeezed and thus the release of possibly dangerous body fluids.
  2. Don’t despair if the tick can’t be removed on the first try. Sometimes several attempts are necessary.
  3. Do not use alcohol, oil or glue! This irritates the tick and can ‘vomit’. The pathogens get into the blood even faster.
  4. Particularly important: Do not hesitate long to remove the ticks, because the longer the suction process lasts, the more likely it is that pathogens will be transmitted and the more pathogens can be transmitted.
  5. After removing the tick, disinfect the bite site with alcohol or an ointment containing iodine.

Does quick removal protect against disease transmission?

Lyme borreliosis bacteria are usually not transmitted until 12 to 24 hours after the tick bite or after the start of the sucking process. So if you manage to remove the tick early on, a Borrelia infection can be avoided. If borreliosis pathogens have already been transmitted, quick action is required: the doctor can treat the infection with antibiotics in the early stages. There is currently no vaccination against Lyme disease.

In the case of early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE), on the other hand, the pathogens are viruses that are transmitted with the tick’s saliva directly when it bites. There is no causal treatment against a TBE infection, only immunization through a vaccination effectively protects in this case.

How do I know if I have been infected with Lyme disease?

Ticks can transmit up to 50 diseases. “In Lyme disease, the so-called wandering reddening – a large, circular reddening around the puncture site – is a typical sign of the disease,” says Dobler. The puncture site should be observed further in the following weeks. The expert: “If the reddening does not go away or if a new reddening occurs after a few days, contact a family doctor immediately. However, wandering reddening does not occur in all Lyme disease patients and headache observed. ” However, these flu-like symptoms can take weeks to appear. ” After that, severe disease courses are possible – from severe pain to heart problems to meningitis. Facial paralysis is also rarely observed. In the chronic late stage, joint inflammation often occurs, which can be the long-term consequences of Lyme disease, “says Dobler.

When should I see a doctor after a tick bite?

“A doctor should be consulted if a possible reddening at the injection site does not go away or if after a few days a reddening develops that enlarges. The same applies if the injection site swells heavily, hurts, becomes hot and throbbing or if symptoms similar to flu, such as fever or body aches occur, “advises Dr. Dobler.

What should I watch out for after a tick bite?

If the tick has been removed successfully, how do I properly dispose of the arachnid? Dr. Dobler: “Make sure to kill the tick safely without coming into contact with the body fluids of the bloodsucker. Alcohol (at least 40 percent) or disinfectants kill the tick effectively.” Also helpful: crush the tick with a solid object. “Under no circumstances should you dispose of the parasite in the toilet or try to kill it in the washing machine. Because ticks can survive in water for up to 3 weeks,” says the doctor and adds: “If you are unsure how to remove a tick correctly, you should see a doctor immediately.”

How do I prevent a tick bite?

  • Avoid tick biotopes: Ticks prefer to live on the edges of forests and in clearings. But ticks can also lurk in the hedges or bushes in the home garden, city parks or on soccer fields. If possible, do not move with bare parts of the body through the undergrowth or tall grass. Ticks are particularly active after a rainy day in summer: they love moisture.
  • Closed clothing: Choose long-legged trousers and closed-toe shoes for your outdoor activities. Also pull the stockings over your pants. In this way you make it more difficult for the tick that is waiting for a host on tall grass to hold on to you.
  • Search the body: Search your body thoroughly after a stay in a typical tick biotope. Ask your partner for help to control your back and other areas that you cannot see yourself.
  • Vaccination: You can get vaccinated against early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE). The TBE virus can be transmitted to humans by an infected tick and attack the central nervous system. A vaccination is particularly recommended for people who live in TBE risk areas, work there or plan to spend their vacation there. 

Where is the risk of ticks greatest?

Ticks love mild temperatures and a humid environment. They find these conditions in forests and gardens, in tall grass and in bushes. You have to expect ticks at every picnic in the grass or a walk in the woods off the beaten track.

Do ticks bite in winter too?

Ticks become active as soon as it is 7 degrees Celsius or warmer for several consecutive days. In Germany, the tick season usually lasts from February to October. In our latitudes, ticks have no problem easily surviving the winter. Because the little parasites know exactly where to find the warmest and most humid winter spots – such as leaf litter, mole burrows and fox burrows. They would only die in long cold spells with temperatures constantly below minus 20 degrees.

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