Protect yourself against Ticks

Spc. Tyler Dugan
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center

Most people have heard of the dangers associated with the heat such as heat exhaustion, sunburn and heatstroke. But there is a frequently overlooked summer danger that lurks in wooded areas, tall grass and bushes – the tick.

The tick is a small arachnid that requires a blood meal to survive. To get a meal, the tick patiently waits on tall grass or brush for a suitable host to pass by. People make suitable hosts. Once a tick has attached itself, there is the potential for it to transmit diseases such as tick-born encephalitis and Lyme disease.

Tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme disease are dangerous and potentially lethal diseases everyone who enjoys the outdoors needs to be aware of. TBE is a viral infection of the central nervous system caused by certain ticks. Lyme disease is a bacterial disease affecting a variety of systems including the musculoskeletal system. These ticks are common in Scandinavia, Western and Central Europe, including the Kaiserslautern area.  Outdoor enthusiasts of all types should keep an eye out for ticks, and this includes periodically checking themselves.

To spot a tick, look for small, flat arachnids. Some may be the size of a dot, others just smaller than a dime. Use the buddy system to check for spots.

If the tick has already bitten and attached itself it should be removed. The best way to remove a tick is to use fine-tipped tweezers and slowly pull from the head without jerking or twisting. Other common home remedies for removal (such as burning or fingernail polish) may increase the likelihood of infection. It is smart to save the tick to take to the doctor in case illness occurs.

Preventing contact with them is the best approach to reduce the likelihood of being bitten by a tick. Ticks are typically found in areas of tall grasses and shrubs especially around the edges of forest or the transition zones from woods to grasslands. Wear insect repellent on exposed skin. Wear light colored clothing that covers legs and arms, along with long socks and boots. Tuck pant legs into socks for better protection. 

Encephalitis is very serious and is defined as an inflammation of the brain. Symptoms may include fever and flu-like symptoms which may last for two to four days. After a period of four to 10 days a second phase occurs, this includes sudden onset of headaches, sensitivity to light, nausea, stiff neck and meningitis-like symptoms (confusion and coordination problems).

Visitors and residents of Western Europe should be aware that TBE may also be transmitted by drinking unpasteurized milk from cows, goats or sheep. The symptoms are the same but generally quicker in onset.

Lyme disease has many symptoms such as migraines, muscle ache and nonspecific flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue and muscle or joint pain. One other common symptom is a “bull’s eye” rash developing in the area of the tick bite.

If TBE is suspected, see a doctor immediately. Elderly and children are more susceptible to infection. Call the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Environmental Health Department at 06370-86-8489 with further questions.