02 May Summer is coming and so are the ticks!
Spring is almost here and the majority of our events will be outdoors. This is absolutely great! By the same token, it brings some additional risks. And because, I want my trips and activities to make you healthier and happier and leave you with nice memories rather than chronic health problems, I decided to write a short post about the prevention of tick-borne diseases. There might not be much new information for you, but some things are just worth repeating!
What are ticks?
Ticks are small, spider-like parasites which feed on blood of animals and humans. They wait in grass and bushes, especially in the shade.
They spread two infectious diseases. Lyme Disease and Tick-borne encephalitis.
Lyme Disease is more common and it can be treated by antibiotics. However, it can leave permanent after effects like chronic tiredness and joint pain. Tick-borne encephalitis is more severe, luckily it is preventable by vaccination. Only a minority of ticks are carriers, so being bitten doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be infected. However, it’s important to be aware of the risk and go to your doctor if you start to feel unwell. According to the data from the SZÚ (The State Health Institute), there were 3939 cases of Lyme Disease and 687 cases of tick-borne encephalitis in the Czech Republic in 2017.
The purpose of this text is to remind you the risk and to give you advice on how to protect yourself. If you want to know more about these two diseases follow the links under the post.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Before you go outdoors
When you go to a forest or park, dress appropriately, ideally cover your body and feet with long trousers, long sleeves, closed shoes, tuck T-shirt into your trousers etc. Use an insect repellent on exposed skin.
Wearing socks in sandals is being laughed at, but in actual fact, it is a smart thing to do. It doesn’t only protect you from ticks, but also the skin and nails on your feet from microtraumas, which might trigger a fungal infection.
After coming back from hiking, camping etc.
Carefully check your skin. Particularly the scalp and neck area and the skin folds, like armpits and behind the knees. If you find a tick, gently remove it using a pair of tweezers.
How to remove a tick (according to the nhs.uk):
„If you find a tick on your or your child’s skin, remove it by gently gripping it as close to the skin as possible.
Use a pair of tweezers that won’t squash the tick (such as fine-tipped tweezers), or use a tick removal tool (available from pet shops or vets). Pull steadily away from the skin without twisting or crushing the tick.
Wash your skin with water and soap afterwards, and apply an antiseptic cream to the skin around the bite.
Don’t use a lit cigarette end, a match head or substances such as alcohol or petroleum jelly to force the tick out.“
An infection transfer is less likely if the infected tick is removed within 24 hours after it attached into your skin. If you notice a red circular skin rash with white centre appearing within a few days or weeks after being bitten by a tick, go to your doctor because this is the most common first symptom of Lyme Disease.
The best protection against Tick-borne encephalitis is vaccination. You will be given three doses, the second dose a month after the first, the third after 6 months. You will be fully protected two weeks after the second shot. In order to keep the immunity, a booster dose is necessary every 3-5 years. One dose costs around 800 CZK and the vaccination is available from your general practioner. I paid 790 CZK at my GP.
And what is your experience with ticks? How do you protect yourself? Feel free to share in the comments.
I wish you a healthy summer!
Text updated on 15th March 2018
Resources & Further reading
https://www.kliste.cz/cz/ (in Czech)