Planning a May weekend? Watch out for ticks

Planning a May weekend? Watch out for ticks

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They are small and very inconspicuous, and their bite can cause serious diseases. Contrary to popular belief, we can find them not only in forests or meadows, but also in squares, city parks or near our homes. As experts stress, as many as 40 percent of ticks, as it’s them we’re talking about, can be carriers of dangerous bacteria and viruses that cause Lyme disease, babesiosis and tick-borne encephalitis. So if you’re planning a picnic, you should know how to protect yourself from them, what to do when a tick bites, and when to consult a doctor.

STEP 1: How to protect yourself against ticks?

Ticks are active when the soil temperature rises above 5-7 degrees Celsius. In Polish climate conditions this usually happens at the turn of March and April. However, the peak of ticks’ activity is in May and June, when we spend the most time outside and in the countryside. This is the time when the risk of tick bites increases.

Agnieszka Motyl MD, epidemiologist at Medicover

So how can we effectively protect ourselves from them?

First of all, appropriate clothing

Before leaving for the forest or park it is certainly a good idea to wear long trousers, covered shoes, long-sleeved sweatshirts and headgear. You may also cover your neck and exposed arm areas with a scarf. Brightly coloured clothes will make it easier to notice the tick and remove it quickly. Ticks prefer warm and moist places. Areas around the groin, behind the knees, armpits, and scalp underneath the hair - these are the most frequent places of bites, which is why we should take special care to protect them.

Protective products

In addition, apply insect and tick repellents to the exposed skin and the outside of clothing. It is also advisable to use a cream with a UV filter. Remember to apply the UV protection cream first, followed by the anti-tick product.

Check your skin

It is very important to examine your skin carefully after returning from outdoors. The check is best done in a well-lit place, as ticks are very small. Look for any red spots, scratch or bite marks. Taking a shower after the walk is recommended- there is a chance that even if we were bitten by a tick, it has not yet managed to get through the skin, and showering can help remove it.

Consider protective vaccination

Vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis, which is difficult to treat due to lack of effective antiviral drugs, is now available. Vaccination is especially recommended for people at high risk of infection, i.e. those who, due to their work, place of residence or interests spend a lot of time outdoors in green areas, e.g. in forests, meadows, parks, etc.

Agnieszka Motyl MD, epidemiologist at Medicover

STEP 2: I was bitten by a tick – how do I remove it?

Unfortunately, we cannot always avoid bites. Is it necessary to immediately see a doctor in this situation?

If we are bitten, we should remove the tick as soon as possible, because the less time it stays in our body, the lower the likelihood of it passing tick-borne diseases to us and the occurrence of inflammatory reactions. Do not wait for the help of a nurse or doctor. Ticks can be safely removed by tweezers, lassos or a special pump used for this purpose. These tools are handy, easy to use and we can buy them in virtually any pharmacy. After removing the tick, disinfect the skin and wash your hands. What is extremely important is that under no circumstances should we lubricate the tick with fat, cream or any alcohol-based solution. Also, do not pull, twist or crush the tick stuck in your skin. It can only make it more difficult to remove it.

Agnieszka Motyl MD, epidemiologist at Medicover

STEP 3: What symptoms should concern me? When should I see a doctor?

A tick bite does not always mean that we have been infected with bacteria or a virus that causes Lyme disease or tick-borne encephalitis. However, we should not exclude this possibility. That is why it is very important to observe how we are feeling and examine the place of the bite, even for as long as 60 days after the bite occurred.

If skin inflammation, redness or erythema occur, it is necessary to see a doctor for further diagnosis, because these may be the first symptoms of Lyme disease. We should also look out for unusual general symptoms, i.e. fever, headache, muscle or joint pain and enlarged lymph nodes – they may be indicative of either early borreliosis or tick-borne encephalitis. Since both diseases can be very dangerous, we should seek medical attention immediately.

Agnieszka Motyl MD, epidemiologist at Medicover

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