As much as we enjoy getting out into nature during the summer, there are a dangers to look out for. One of those is tick bites. Ticks are active for much longer than what we traditionally consider summer, from around March to November, when the temperature is above 4 – 5 degrees. Ticks can be carriers of several serious diseases, which when left untreated can produce lasting consequences. TBE is an uncommon (only about 200 in Sweden are infected each year) tick born virus for which there is no treatment once infected. However, there are vaccines available for TBE. Borrelia, on the other hand, is a tick born bacterial infection for which no vaccine is available. However once infected it is treated with antibiotics. Around 100 tick bites per year lead to a borrelia infection.
So, what do we do with the tick problem? Stay indoors? Absolutely not! But prevention is the first line of defense. When going into forested areas or areas with tall grass, wear long pants and long sleeves, preferrably with elastic at the wrist and ankles. Also, it is easier to spot ticks on lightly colored clothes and for footwear, boots are the best. Dress so that it is not easy for a tick to get to your skin. When undressing, check for ticks and be sure to check on children and even pets.
What do you do if you find a tick that has bitten? Remove it immediately. Use something sharp, like a tick remover or a tweezer, or even your fingernails if nothing else is available. Get as close to the skin as possible and pull it directly out without twisting it. Be careful not to squeeze the stomach of the tick as this could push its contents into the human body. The area around the tick bite will probably red and slightly swollen for several days. However if it is remains red and swollen or gets worse after a week, it should be looked at by a doctor. Watch for any other unusual symptoms for up to several weeks after a bite – fever, headache or a general sick feeling.
So get out and enjoy all that nature has to offer, just don’t forget that there are ticks out there.