Tick season is in full swing. How to prevent tick bites and the associated risk of Lyme disease? Are you in danger in the garden? And what do you do if you find a tick on your body?
Almost 10,000 tick bites were reported in Belgium last year. This is worrying, 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 causes this disease. Lyme disease can be associated with all kinds of disorders, from fatigue and joint problems to heart arrhythmias and symptoms of paralysis.
If you do not treat a tick bite in time with antibiotics, the complaints can become chronic. Many people don’t realize they’ve been bitten, experts say. Not everyone gets the characteristic red spot or circle. So you can walk around with complaints for years without knowing what the cause is.
It is therefore important to check for ticks yourself if you have been in the wild. Especially at this time of year, says environmentalist and drawing expert Helen Esser of Wageningen University. Because although you can catch a tick bite most of the year, insects are most active in May, June and July.
Checking yourself for ticks is painstaking work. The nymphs in particular are contagious and they do not exceed a millimeter. Check yourself carefully for small black dots. Remove a tick as soon as possible to reduce the risk of infection. Use sharp tweezers to remove the tick. Place it 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 then 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 any medical complaints, you can link them to the tick bite.
How do you avoid tick bites when you go out into the wild? Ticks do not grow taller than five feet and are usually found in the undergrowth, on fallen leaves or blades of grass. The best way to prevent tick bites is to stay on the trails. Pay attention to your clothes, too: wear long sleeves and long pants, and tuck your pant legs into your socks. Applying Deet to yourself also helps.
You can find tips online to make your garden less welcoming to ticks. For example, the Centers for Disease Control (the American Sciensano) advises to mow your lawn regularly, to rake it and to build a gravel partition between the lawn and the patio. Helen Esser has reservations about such measures. “Our gardens – often small, with tiles – are not a welcoming place for ticks. And you won’t easily find ticks in leafy gardens if you live in a city or town. So why do so many people say they’ve been bitten in the garden? “They may have been bitten before, but they didn’t realize it.” Another possibility: people with gardens bordering green spaces are over-represented in the surveys. Esser: “In fact, these are the only gardens where ticks are found. ”
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