Anyone who works outside might get bitten by a tick. Although it is a small critter, a tick bite can have major consequences. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease. Read what you can do to reduce your risk of being bitten.
Ticks look like little spiders and can be found everywhere, especially in tall grass and bushes and scrubs. They can also be found on pets, game, birds, and corpses. Around one million people are bitten by a tick every year, usually in the period between March and October. When a tick bites you, it swells up and looks like a dark red ball. Once it’s full of blood, it can measure up to 1 centimetre in diameter. Infected ticks can transmit Lyme disease. People who have been infected with the disease for a long time can develop irreversible health problems.
How to protect yourself
If you work outside, make sure you wear skin-covering clothing that fits closely at the wrists, neck, waist, and ankles, and tuck your trousers legs into your socks. If necessary, spray your socks, shoes, and trousers with an insect repellent containing DEET and also lubricate uncovered skin with an insect repellent containing DEET.
Even if you take all these precautions, it’s important that you check yourself for tick bites every day. Ticks prefer certain places on the body, such as the groin, behind the knees, the armpits, the edges of your underwear, behind the ears, and around the hairline on the back of the neck. Use a mirror or magnifying glass if you need to. And don’t forget to check your clothes! If ticks are in your clothes, you can wash them at 60°C and then put them in the dryer. This will kill the ticks.
How to remove a tick
Use a good tick remover, such as a sharp pair of tweezers or special tick removers (available at the chemist). It is particularly important to remove the tick quickly, as this halves the risk of contracting Lyme disease. Use the tweezers or tick remover to grasp the tick by the head as close to the skin as possible and gently pull it out. If a piece of the head is left behind in the skin, it is harmless and will fall out by itself. Disinfect the wound afterwards.
Always make a note of when and where you were bitten and keep an eye on the skin around the tick bite for up to three months. If you notice any discoloration and the area keeps getting bigger, contact your doctor.