Ticks can cause you to get Lyme disease. During a bite, they can transmit the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which can cause Lyme disease. What exactly are ticks? What is the best way to remove a tick? How can you recognize whether you are infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi?
Ticks belong to the arachnids. They are small creatures (from smaller than 1 mm to a few mm) that wait in the grass, shrubs or trees for their host and/or hostess (mammal, bird or reptile). They undergo 4 life stages (egg, larva, nymph and adult tick). At each stage (except the egg stage) the animal needs blood once to feed itself for the next stage. Adult males do not need blood. The female ticks do need blood for the development of the eggs (1000-2000). In order to suck themselves full of blood, these parasites bite firmly into the skin. Ticks can appear anywhere on the body, but they prefer warm places, such as behind the ears, in the armpit and in the groin. During the first 24 hours that a tick has bitten itself, there is no transfer of micro-organisms (these come from the intestines of the animal and have to travel a long way before they reach their new host) and therefore no the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi .
The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi can cause Lyme disease. If this disease is not treated properly in time, it can have serious consequences, such as joint and heart problems. It is therefore important to remove a discovered tick as quickly as possible, because you never know how long the tick has been there.
Once you have chronic Lyme, a two-week course of antibiotics will not help. This stage of Lyme disease is not always easy to detect in the Netherlands. Many people who suspect that they may have Lyme disease therefore move to Germany where the tests are much more advanced and they are also much more advanced with treatments.
Removing the tick
- Take pointed tweezers or tick pincers and grasp the tick as close as possible to the animal’s head (do not use anesthetics such as Tea Tree oil, these increase the chance that the intestinal contents (and thus possibly also the bacteria Borrrelia burgdorferi) will be transferred
- Pull the tick out slowly without twisting
- Disinfect the bite wound with 70% alcohol or iodine
- Note the date and location where the tick was located
- Keep a close eye (for up to two months) to see if a spot or red ring develops around the bite (many people think that a red ring or spot always becomes visible as a sign of Lyme disease, but this is not necessarily the case). You can also have Lyme disease without ever having a red ring or spot!) and keep an eye out for flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache or joint pain. These may be the first signs of Lyme disease. If this is the case, go to the doctor immediately
If the doctor determines that Lyme disease is present, a course of antibiotics will be started as soon as possible. It is important to be quick because any subsequent damage to the joints and nervous system does not always fully recover.
Unfortunately, you cannot become immune to Lyme disease. Every new tick bite represents a new risk of infection. There is no vaccine available (yet). Properly covering clothing (socks, long pants and long sleeves) reduces the risk of tick bites, but does not prevent them.
When are ticks active?
Ticks are there all year round. They can become active as soon as the temperature rises above 5 to 10 degrees Celsius. Most people are bitten between March and October.