Tick season is in full swing. How do you prevent tick bites and the risks associated with Lyme disease? Are you in danger in the park? What do you do if you find a tick on your body?
Nearly 10,000 tick bites were reported in Belgium last year. This is concerning, because ticks can transmit all kinds of infectious diseases to humans, such as Lyme disease. About 20 percent of ticks carry the Borrelia bacteria that cause this disease. Lyme can be associated with all kinds of complaints, from fatigue and joint complaints to irregular heartbeats and symptoms of paralysis.
If the tick bite is not treated in a timely manner with antibiotics, the complaints may become chronic. Experts say many people don’t realize they’ve been bitten. Not everyone gets the distinctive red spot or circle. So you can walk with complaints for years without knowing why.
So it is important to check for ticks if you are out in nature. Especially at this time of year, says ecologist and graphic expert Helen Esser of Wageningen University. Because although you can get a tick bite practically all year round, the insects are most active in May, June and July.
Checking yourself for ticks is hard work. Nymphs in particular are contagious and are no larger than a millimeter in size. Examine yourself closely for small black dots. Remove the tick as soon as possible to reduce the risk of infection. Use sharp tweezers to remove the tick. Place this as close to the skin as possible and pull the tick straight out. Be careful not to crush the tick, as the contents of the infected stomach can seep into the wound. You can also use a special drawing card. If you find a tick bite, write down the time and place in your journal. If you receive medical complaints, you can associate them with a tick bite.
How do you prevent tick bites when you go outside? Ticks do not grow higher than five feet and are usually in shrubs on dead leaves or blades of grass. The best way to prevent tick bites is to stay on the tracks. Also pay attention to your clothes: wear long sleeves and long pants, and stick your legs into your socks. Deet helps yourself too.
You can find tips online to make your garden less tick friendly. For example, the Centers for Disease Control (American Sciensano) advises regularly mowing and watering your lawn and building a gravel barrier between your lawn and yard. Helen Esser has reservations about such measures. “Our gardens – often small and tiled – are not a hospitable place for ticks. You will not easily find ticks in green gardens if you live in a city or village.” So why do so many people say they were bitten in the garden? “They may have been bitten before, but they didn’t realize it.” Another possibility: People with parks on the edge of green spaces are over-represented in surveys. Esser: “Actually, these are the only gardens where there are ticks.”