Summer is the time for picnics and many walks in the woods and parks. It is also the favorite period of ticks. A bite of these blood drinkers can affect a person’s health for a long time. Scientists in the Netherlands have predicted unprecedented tick activity in the summer of 2018: more than 500,000 attacks on humans and animals. Thus, while walking, we can sometimes feel surrounded by these parasites, but not panic; it is possible to avoid them and not to contract serious diseases.
Reliable information has been gathered on the different ways to avoid ticks in the woods and how to behave if one of them is still attached to you.
1. How to identify a tick
Ticks live in almost every country in the world, with the exception of countries with low temperatures all year round. Thus, the probability of being confronted with these parasites is high, no matter where you are in the world. Here are the characteristics that will allow you to identify this predatory arachnid. Even though humans have listed more than 800 tick species to date, only two families represent an immediate risk; Ixodida (hard) and Argas (soft), which are carriers of various diseases.
What do ticks that attack people look like?
-They are always flat.
-The tick does not know how to fly or jump, it just “clings” to its victim when it passes close to her.
-Depending on their age, ticks can have 3 or 4 pairs of legs. If the tick has 4 pairs, it is that it is an adult specimen; but beware, the little ones are just as dangerous!
-Ticks have no eyes; they find their prey to smell.
-Ixodida ticks have a hard “back”, and they are not easy to crush.
-They can live a year without eating.
-It is impossible to identify a dangerous tick by its appearance: an Ixodida tick infected with encephalitis or Lyme borreliosis has exactly the same appearance as common specimens.
2. Where do ticks live?
The tick waits for its prey in tall grass, between shrubs or on tree trunks. That’s why you have to take precautions when walking in parks or in the forest. Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not jump from trees on warm-blooded people passing nearby; they attach themselves rather to them from the places close to the ground; grass or ferns for example. Then they climb on their victim in search of a place to attach.
However, urban residents have no reason to feel out of danger: the number of people attacked by ticks in “atypical” places is increasing year after year. In addition, pets (cats and dogs) can become carriers very easily. Ticks do not need more than 30 seconds to attach to their victim; That’s why you have to be very careful in places that are more risky.
3. When do ticks become dangerous?
The disease outbreaks caused by tick bites present a pattern that repeats every year. They correspond to the development phases of arthropods: tick larvae experiment with fairly complex life cycles. Gentle winters and early springs will certainly induce an increase in the tick population. But it is during the period from May to September that they represent a greater danger in the northern hemisphere, and from December to March in the southern hemisphere – knowing that this period may vary depending on the locality.
4. How to avoid an encounter with ticks?
It may seem that ticks are formidable predators from which one can not escape. However, by following a few simple rules, you can significantly reduce the risk of biting to zero.
Wear appropriate clothing. To walk on potentially “dangerous” terrain, choose clothes that cover your body as much as possible. So no shirt or short pants; opt for long sleeves and pants to the ankle. Wear high boots. In addition, experienced walkers recommend putting pants in socks; as ticks move from the bottom of your body upward, they will have no opportunity to reach your skin there.
Spread on your clothes, shoes, and camping tents an insecticide containing not less than 5% permethrin. It is the most effective for repelling ticks.
When returning from a walk, check your clothes, take a shower and inspect your whole body. The places where ticks attach more frequently are the groin, the armpits, behind the ears and on the back of the knees; that is, the places where the blood vessels are closest to the skin.
Put insecticides on your pets to repel pests. Cats are very sensitive to chemicals and treatments should be given after consultation with the veterinarian.
Doctors recommend that people in areas where tick-borne encephalitis is common should be vaccinated.
5. What is the risk in case of tick bite?
Tick bites are usually painless because their saliva contains anesthetic. In the majority of cases, the presence of a tick is discovered when it has already adhered to the skin and started to eat; that is to say, the main symptom of the bite is this very one. The more time the tick spends on the skin, the higher the probability of transmission of pathogenic bacteria and dangerous viruses.
The diseases that ticks carry are as follows:
Lyme disease is an infection, which in severe cases causes complications of neurological symptoms, memory loss and pain in the joints. For the moment, there is no effective and safe vaccine against Lyme disease.
Tick-borne encephalitis is a viral infection that is characterized by fever, intoxication, and damage to the brain and spinal cord with irreversible consequences. Statistically, 6 out of 100 ticks carry encephalitis, and between 2 to 6% of individuals bitten by an infected tick can contract the disease.
Local allergic reactions and inflammation at the bite site. In the area of the bite there is redness, inflammation or rash in the form of bubbles. In addition, if the tick is incorrectly extracted, a secondary bacterial infection very often occurs.
Any tick extracted from the body must be returned to the laboratory so that a specialist can perform his analysis. It is possible to use any container or closed bag to transport it. Only a specialist with an equipped laboratory will be able to assess the degree of danger of a tick. If it turns out that the tick is infected, an injection of immunoglobulins made in time will prevent the development of the disease.
6. Symptoms that require immediate medical attention
The bite of a tick is always potentially dangerous, so it is necessary in all cases to drive the tick to the laboratory to perform its analysis. The infected person must also perform a blood test to check for the presence of antibodies in his blood against tick-borne encephalitis or borreliosis. Apart from that, there are alarming symptoms that should not be ignored; in case of appearance of these must go to the doctor as soon as possible:
Erythema migrans is a classic symptom of Lyme disease. It is a redness that appears between 3 and 30 days after the bite and can reach a diameter of 15 cm. The middle part of inflammation has a lighter color; some patients say that these rashes look like a target for darts. Erythema is not an allergic reaction, but rather a nearly 100% proof that the tick was a carrier of borreliosis. When it is detected, it is necessary to consult a doctor in urgency to start a treatment with antibiotics.
One month after the bite, if you develop symptoms of acute infection of the lower respiratory tract: fever, headache, muscle weakness. Especially if they are accompanied by a rash.
You can not remove the mandibles of the tick that are embedded in the skin. The remaining parts of the tick can cause inflammation.
Neurological symptoms: rigidity in the neck muscles, nausea, trembling hands and strong palpitations.
7. How to extract a tick
If, despite all the precautions, a tick is attached to your skin, you must remove it as soon as possible. You can use different things to extract it correctly: pliers, wires, or special tools. Never pour oil or liquid with a strong odor on the tick and do not attempt to burn it. This type of action will cause the tick to penetrate more deeply into the skin and this will make extraction more difficult.
Extraction with a clamp:
If you use tweezers, pinch the tick on the area closest to the bite.
Do not turn and let go, pull up firmly and carefully. If you are too strong, the mandibles of the tick can remain in the skin. This part does not transmit any disease but can cause inflammation.
After removing the tick, put alcohol on the wound, wash your hands and disinfect the forceps.
Place the extracted tick in a container or in a bag that can be sealed so that it can be taken to a specialist for analysis.
Extraction with a wire:
Opt for a thin thread, that you can also get out of your clothes (this can be used everywhere!).
Make a knot around the tick’s head and squeeze it.
Pull the tick upward, gently pulling on both ends of the thread, alternating the thread you are pulling.
Disinfect the wound, make sure to wash your hands and return the tick to the laboratory for analysis.