Here’s what you should know about ticks

Munich / Neckarsulm. Walking through nature in the summer without thinking about ticks – that would be great. Unfortunately, encounters with animals are unavoidable in many places during the warmer months. Ticks transmit diseases such as Lyme disease or tick-borne encephalitis (TBE). What’s the best way to protect yourself from animals – and what to do after a bite? Two experts give advice.

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“Our native ticks like to stay in tall grass, bushes, loose leaves and in not-too-dry forests,” says family physician and emergency physician Michaela Jaeger of Neckarsulm. Most of the time you ignore them in passing. “In this regard, the precautionary rules are: wear sturdy shoes, wear long pants in your socks and check your whole body after spending time in nature.”

The effect of tick sprays has not been proven

Children must also wear a hat. Because: ticks can climb to a certain height in the bush. It is also advisable to know if you are traveling in a TBE risk area. According to the Robert Koch Institute, there are currently 175 counties, most of which are in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.

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Tropical medicine specialist Christina Huber of the LMU hospital in Munich says that mosquito or tick sprays are only useful to a limited extent. “It’s good against mosquitoes – but it hasn’t been shown to be good against ticks.” A combination of various measures ensures the best possible protection: vaccination against tuberculosis, long clothing, tick spray with the active ingredient permethrin – sprayed on the skin and material.

Wear light-colored clothes in nature

Follow-up is just as important as preparation – that is, a thorough examination of the body. Important: “Because you can’t see the back and back of your knees very well, this helps support each other when looking,” says emergency physician Geiger.

Whether it’s pliers, tag or hook: there are all kinds of tools to remove ticks. There is usually time to get it from the pharmacy first.

You should also not forget about the folds of the body in the genital area, as well as the areas behind the ears and under the armpits. “Ticks, which are often dark, are easy to spot on light-colored clothing,” says family doctor Geiger. By the way, if you wear bright colors in nature, you can also keep away mosquitoes that are active during the day. According to Huber, who specializes in tropical medicine, they tend to respond to darker colors.

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TBE is significantly less common than Lyme disease

What if you are bitten by a tick? Emergency Physician Michaela Jaeger’s advice: Stay calm. “As a rule, you have enough time to remove the tick.” In Lyme disease, the tick must absorb the skin for a certain period of time before it releases Borrelia on the human being. “If you remove the tick in less than twelve hours, you don’t have to worry about it,” says Geiger.

TBE is a little different. The disease is transmitted faster by a tick bite. But it’s also very rare: According to the RKI, only 0.1 to 5 percent of ticks in high-risk areas carry TBE viruses.

Stay away from home remedies

However, as a rule, there is time to go to the pharmacy to buy tools for removing ticks. The advantage of tick hooks, cards or pliers: thanks to them, ticks can be removed slowly and in a controlled manner. It is best to disinfect the wound afterwards. Sometimes you do not have a special tool at hand – and there is no pharmacy nearby either. It is best to stay away from home remedies.

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Christina Huber gives an example: “It used to be said that a tick had to be rubbed with oil or butter so that it could not breathe and had to be left.” According to the infectologist, that’s true, but there’s a risk that the tick — if it brings in TBE or Borrelia viruses with it — is spreading more pathogens through friction. “Therefore, this method is strongly not recommended,” Huber says.

Watch for a tick bite for several weeks

In emergency situations, the tick can also be removed with your fingers. “It is important not to squeeze or wrap the tick, otherwise it is more likely to transmit pathogens to the human organism,” says Jaeger, who is also president of the Central German Association of Homeopathic Doctors (DZVhÄ). “Many fear that they have removed the body of the tick, but its head or stinging organ is still in the skin,” says the doctor. The same applies here: do not panic. Because the transmission of Borrelia by the head alone does not work – these are found in the intestines of ticks.

Sturdy shoes are a good choice for hiking - and also to protect your feet from ticks.

Sturdy shoes are a good choice for hiking – and also to protect your feet from ticks.

If you are not sure about removing the entire tick, you can consult your family doctor to be on the safe side. “If you’ve been bitten by a tick, it’s basically important to monitor the area for four to six weeks,” says Michaela Geiger. You can note the date of the bite and mark the site of the puncture.

Redness in Lyme disease, fever in tuberculosis

In this way, the local movement of inflammation can be easily tracked. “Sometimes you get stung and the skin turns a little red at the site, which is completely normal,” Geiger says. The redness often goes away after a few days without an infection. By the way: Lyme disease and tuberculosis symptoms are easily distinguishable from each other. In the case of Lyme disease, the so-called redness occurs as the first sign.

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The central hole is fading away. Geiger describes a dilated red halo around it. The aggravated circle on the edge can increase up to 10 to 20 cm in diameter. Lyme disease can be well treated with antibiotics. According to Huber, a TBE infection usually begins with nonspecific symptoms such as headache and body aches. or fever There is often a symptom-free period of about a week before meningoencephalitis or neuritis develops.

Hyalomma ticks are rare in Germany

He probably read a lot about her already – the sign of Hyalomma. But is it really on the rise and also a danger in Germany? Hyalomma ticks are found mainly in tropical countries. In Europe it is mainly reported in southern locations in particularly hot summer. “They migrate by associating themselves with migratory birds – that’s how they get to Europe,” says Tropical Medicine Specialist Huber.

The Hyalomma tick is much larger than the original tick and has striped legs. “It’s very rare in Germany,” Huber says. So no need to worry. In this country, Huber says, it is still very likely that he will be bitten by one of “our” ticks.

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RND / dpa

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