Facts and figures
Heading out into nature or spending time in the garden? Keep an eye out for ticks! Some ticks carry a bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. There’s plenty you can do to prevent a tick bite. If you are bitten, remove the tick using the correct technique and check for signs of infection.
A tick is not an insect – it’s an arachnid arthropod parasite. A tick has four pairs of legs and there is no visible difference between the front and back of its body. There are more than 800 species of tick, and there are both hard and soft ticks. Hard ticks owe their name to their hard carapace, while the exoskeleton of the soft tick is leathery. Hard ticks go through three stages of life: larva, nymph, and adult. The nymphs are often no larger than the head of a pin.
Ticks live off of the blood of humans and especially animals, usually small rodents, pets, deer, sheep, and birds. A tick recognizes its host by vibrations and temperature. Ticks do not have any teeth; they attach themselves by embedding their mouth into the skin. Hard ticks burrow their head under the skin, where they can remain for up to 72 hours to suck blood.
A tick can cause serious problems, because when sucking the blood it can transfer viruses, bacteria, parasites, and even poison. If the tick is stunned (with alcohol) or heated (with a cigarette), it goes into shock and responds by releasing pathogens into the body through its saliva.
The best-known and most dangerous bacterium that a tick can transmit is the Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. This illness can ultimately lead to serious health problems. Lyme disease is found throughout Europe and in the United States, Siberia, China, and Japan.
There are three stages to Lyme disease:
- In 35-50% of cases, a red ring-shaped rash (Erythema migrans) appears at the site of the tick bite within three weeks. This rash slowly expands, fades in the middle and then disappears.
- During the second phase, flu-like symptoms appear: headache, exhaustion, pain in the arms and legs. These symptoms also disappear on their own.
- During the last phase, often months after the bite, joint pain, cardiac arrhythmia and nervous system disorders can occur.
There is no vaccine against Lyme disease. That is why it is so important to remove the tick safely and as quickly as possible – within eight hours. Treatment is most successful if started immediately after identifying the tick bite.