Ticks are active from March to November – much longer in mild winters. Since they transmit diseases such as early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE) or Lyme disease, they are among the most dangerous animals in Europe. What needs to be considered when removing ticks, how to recognize a tick bite and which protection makes sense.
Ticks become active when it is at least seven degrees Celsius for several days in a row. The arachnids feel most comfortable between 14 and 23 degrees Celsius. Ticks can survive for up to two years without any further food after a blood meal. In the worst case, however, they transmitted pathogens to the person who was stung. Ticks can pass on around 50 different diseases.
At a glance:
Ticks: They particularly like to bite these areas of the skin
The main hosts of ticks are rodents, but also cats, birds and game. The parasites also do not stop at humans to feed. Since they usually attach themselves to each other for several days, they prefer to prick protected areas of the body. In addition, ticks like thin-skinned, well-perfused and moist body regions. In humans, these are above all:
- Hip area
- Genital area
In the case of children and pets, the head in particular should be checked for tick bites. During the sting, ticks secrete a secretion that contains, among other things, narcotics. In this way, the process usually goes unnoticed. The secretion also contains anti-coagulant and anti-inflammatory substances. In order for the tick to adhere firmly to the body, the secretion acts as a kind of glue.
Remove ticks: do not twist
Anyone who notices a tick bite should remove the tick immediately. Because the longer the animal can suckle, the higher the likelihood that it will transmit pathogens in the process: Viruses of early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE) pass into the host body immediately after the bite, whereas with Lyme disease bacteria it takes up to twelve hours.
There are several tools that can be used to remove ticks:
- Tick tweezers: In addition to normal household tweezers, special tick tweezers are available. The tip is shaped a little differently for removal, making it easier to use.
- Tick cards: A tick card is a check-sized plastic card that has a beak-shaped slot on one edge that you can use to grab the tick.
- Tick snare: With a tick loop, a wire loop appears at the push of a button, with which the tick can be grabbed.
- Tick hook: The hook can be led directly along the skin under the tick and then pulled out evenly upwards.
This is important to note when removing ticks:
- To remove the animal, the device is placed as close to the skin as possible.
- The tick is now carefully and evenly pulled straight out. Avoid jerky movements if possible.
- After the tick is separated from the skin, it is best to disinfect the wound.
If you are not sure, a visit to the doctor can be useful to have the tick removed.
This is what you should avoid when removing ticks:
The tick should not be crushed. Otherwise, pathogens can enter the host’s body. In addition, when removing it, make sure that the tick is not turned. Because this could cause the head to get stuck and cause inflammation.
Home remedies such as oil, glue, alcohol or the like to kill the tick while it is still in the skin are not suitable methods of removal. The risk that the tick will release more pathogens into the blood when it dies is very high.
Killing ticks – what really helps?
Fold the tick into a folded piece of paper and then push or roll a solid object (for example a glass of water) with pressure over the leaf. As a result, the animal is crushed and the human does not come into contact with possibly infected body fluids. Another way to kill the tick is to burn it.
So better not:
Trampling or flushing the toilet are still common ways to get rid of ticks. But these are not effective measures, because the animals survive:
- They are often not caught properly when trampled on and live on.
- Ticks can survive underwater for up to three weeks.
- Almost 100 percent of the ticks also survive a spin wash at 40 degrees or a 24-hour cold of minus 13 degrees.
Good protection against ticks: Long, light-colored clothing
There are a few things you can do to prevent a tick bite. Even if it’s uncomfortable at higher temperatures: Long clothes are one of the best ways to prevent tick bites. For example, if you are planning a walk in the forest or in the field, it is better to wear long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt. It is even better to tuck your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants. As a result, there are no free transitions in the clothing, which could cause the ticks to crawl onto the skin. Smooth shoes, such as rubber boots, make it even more difficult for the animals to hold onto.
Clothing like this forms a barrier between the skin and the tick (it cannot pierce through the clothing). However, ticks can crawl around on it until they find an open area of skin. Therefore, light-colored clothing makes sense: the dark arachnids are easy to see and can be removed immediately.
Checking for ticks on yourself, children and pets should definitely be done after each stay in the wild.
Ticks can climb a maximum of 150 centimeters. Therefore, they neither “fall” down from the trees, nor do they jump on their victims. As a rule, the tick does not move towards its host either, but lets itself be “stripped” from it when it passes it. Since the arachnids can hold on to clothing, these should also be searched after being outdoors.
Repellents (insect repellants) offer additional protection against tick bites. Their effect wears off after a few hours and then has to be reapplied. The repellents are sprayed directly onto the skin and also onto clothing for extra protection.
TBE vaccination recommended in risk areas
Nowadays there is a vaccination against TBE. Anyone living or traveling in a risk area should be vaccinated beforehand. In Germany, the south is considered endangered: TBE is particularly widespread in most of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. Parts of southern Hesse, Thuringia, Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland are also considered TBE risk areas. Outside Germany, Eastern and Southeastern European countries such as Austria and Croatia are particularly affected.
Even if maps of TBE risk areas turn the southern half of Germany in alarming red, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) only a few ticks actually carry the TBE virus: in the risk areas it is around 0.1 to five percent the animals.
If you notice flu-like symptoms a few days to weeks after a tick bite, a visit to a doctor is essential to rule out TBE. Contrary to the term early summer meningoencephalitis, the tick disease can not only be transmitted in early summer, but throughout the year as long as the ticks are active.
Borreliosis from ticks: antibiotic therapy necessary
There is no vaccination to prevent Lyme disease. Fortunately, the pathogens are only transmitted very slowly, often only after 12 hours. Until then, the tick bite had been discovered frequently. If a wandering redness forms after the sting, medical advice should be sought. If Lyme disease is diagnosed, the disease can be treated well with antibiotics.
Between 80,000 and 200,000 people in Germany are infected with Borrelia every year. That is significantly more than with TBE. This is because more ticks – namely up to 30 percent – are infected with Borrelia than with TBE viruses. Nevertheless, only a tiny fraction of those infected become ill.
Ticks in dogs and cats
In order not to introduce ticks through pets, it is important to check your dog and cat regularly for the arachnids. Special repellents, tick collars, powders and modern “spot-on” products provide a certain level of protection against tick bites. There is also a tablet for dogs that provides protection against ticks for at least three months. They can still stab, but then dry up within the first twelve hours and fall off.
Spread of ticks
Especially wild animals such as birds, deer, foxes and rodents serve as hosts and help them to spread. Typical tick habitats are:
- Transitional areas of vegetation such as forest edges or paths
- sparse forests, deciduous forests
- herbaceous plants
- damp undergrowth
- Leaf litter
- shady meadows
- tall grass (especially the tips of blades of grass)
Ticks are also found in cities. Especially in parks, backyards, gardens and playgrounds. In general, the parasites like damp and shady places. Mild winters and humid summers favor their spread and enable them to be active beyond November or before March. After all, there are no ticks above 1,000 to 2,000 meters.
Tick species and life cycle
In the arachnid class, ticks are mites. Most of the parasites in Europe belong to the family of the tick family, with their most famous representative, the common wood tick (Ixodes ricinus). Other types of ticks:
Hyalomma tick (Hyalomma marginatum): It actively searches for blood and mainly stings horses. This type of tick overwinters in Germany.
Alluvial forest tick (Dermacentor reticulatus): its back has a light-dark pattern. You are at home in Germany and can transmit TBE. Dogs can become infected with dog malaria from it.
Hedgehog tick (Ixodes hexagonus): It rarely attacks humans and prefers hedgehogs and pets. The tick can transmit TBE and Lyme disease.
Sheep tick (Dermacentor marginatus): It attacks animals like sheep and is native to meadows. The tick species rarely gets lost on people.
Brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus): As the name suggests, the type of tick usually affects dogs.
Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by www.lifeline.de.
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