Dangerous season: How to protect yourself from ticks?
According to specialists of SuvaPro, about 5-50% of all ticks are carriers of dangerous diseases borreliosis and encephalitis. As warm days and the picnic season are coming, we are reminding you how to protect yourself from the ticks and why their bites can be dangerous.
Ticks belong to arachnids, and there are several species of them. Ixodes ricinus lives throughout Europe and is the most common type of ticks, which can be found even at an altitude of 1500m above sea level.
Ticks are especially active in spring and autumn. Usually they can be met at a level of up to 1.5m above the ground, in the forests and on the roadsides. Typically, “victims” of ticks are animals and people who are passing by. In this case, a tick finds a suitable area of the skin, painlessly bites it through, and then firmly attaches itself and sucks blood for several days. At this time, the human/animal pathogens of Lyme disease and/or tick-borne encephalitis (FSME) can be transmitted.
Borreliosis (Lyme disease)
Borreliosis is caused by bacteria of the Borrelia burgdorferi species. Depending on the locality, approximately 5-50% of ticks are carrying this pathogen. Borreliosis leaves traces in the blood, i.e. the blood test can show the presence of so-called antibodies, even if the infection has not yet caused any discomfort. This is dangerous, since the disease can proceed in a host of different ways, and often does not have symptoms.
The disease does not cause immunity. This means that having cured Lyme disease once, you can get infected and get sick again. Unfortunately, this also means that there is no vaccination against Borrelia, but Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics.
Stage 1 (3-32 days after bite): Redness develops around the bite site, usually with a paler patch in the center. Symptoms similar to flu may occur, which, including rash, can last for a maximum of several months.
Stage 2 (weeks-months after bite): There may be abnormalities in the nervous system, namely pain, impaired sensory perception, paralysis of the hands, legs, neck/head. There may be inflammation of the joints, and less often – heart problems.
Stage 3 (years after bite): The skin shows significant changes (thinning and red-violet staining), and rarely there are chronic changes in the nervous system and joints.
Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain, and is caused by a virus. As in the case of borreliosis, the presence of the virus in the blood can be determined by analysis. Encephalitis can occur with significant changes.
Immune resistance can be formed with the help of vaccination. The disease can not be treated with antibiotics, since it is a viral infection.
Stage 1 (1-2 weeks after the bite): Symptoms similar to the flu, which last only a few days.
Stage 2 (several weeks after the bite): After several days without symptoms, 5-15% of patients have inflammations of the nervous system with severe headaches, and sometimes paralysis and impaired consciousness. Permanent deteriorative changes and even death are possible.
- Avoid places where you can get in touch with ticks. These places include forests and roadsides, underbrush, grass and ferns no higher than 1.5m above the ground and at altitudes up to 1500m above sea level.
- Wear closed, light clothing covering the body as much as possible. Ticks are easier to see on light-colored clothing, and this way they can be noticed and removed before they reach the skin and bite.
- Use special tick repellent on skin and clothing.
- Be especially careful in the spring and autumn.
You can also vaccinate against tick-borne encephalitis to protect yourself from this disease (but even then you should continue to be cautious, because there is no vaccination against Borrelia).
Rapid removal of the tick can help protect you against diseases. The longer the tick sucks blood, the higher the risk that the pathogen will be transmitted to you. Therefore, after staying in places where you can come across ticks, always, carefully inspect the clothes and body as soon as possible (at least on the same day). Immediately remove the ticks as soon as you find them.
Ticks often bite under the knees, in the groin and underarm areas, and also along the hairline in children.
If you’ve been bitten by a tick
Remove the tick with tweezers, slowly pulling it perpendicularly to the skin. After this, disinfect the bite site. If you suspect any symptoms described above, contact your doctor immediately!