If a tick is sucked in, it is not only disgusting, but also dangerous. In addition to early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE), the little critters can also transmit Lyme disease – with sometimes severe effects. We show how to recognize the disease and how best to protect it.
It is not known exactly how many Germans develop Lyme disease each year. It is estimated that there could be more than 200,000. There is basically a risk of infection in every region, although cases occur frequently in some areas. “In studies from Germany and Switzerland, after a tick bite, antibody formation against Borrelia was detected in 2.6 to 5.6 percent of those affected,” reports the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). A clinically manifest illness can be expected with a total of 0.3 to 1.4 percent of people with tick bites.
Erythmea migrans, better known as wandering blush, is by far the most common symptom in the early stages. It is an edge-emphasized, not raised, red circle around the tick bite with a diameter of at least five centimeters. The blush only appears on average after seven to ten days. But it can also appear after three days or only after a month. However, there are atypical shapes that vary in appearance and period. Only a trained eye from a dermatologist provides clarity.
In addition to the single blush, some patients also have multiple erythema migrantia. These are several red, sharply defined, oval circles, different sizes on the body or symmetrically on the cheeks in children. In addition, symptoms such as fever, muscle and a headache, meningitis is rarely possible.
If there is a blush around the tick bite, contact a doctor immediately. The same applies if there is no redness, but they have flu-like symptoms. Because if you go to the doctor quickly with lymph borreliosis, you will usually get through the disease quickly and without consequences. There are effective drugs in the early stages: antibiotics. The doctor usually prescribes doxcycline or amoxicillin for ten to 30 days. On the other hand, the experts at the RKI advise against general antibiotic administration for any tick bite due to the possible side effects.
The doctor diagnoses Lyme disease based on the external signs. Various blood tests serve as a supplement, which detect antibodies against the Borrelia. Incidentally, the antibodies can remain in the blood for years after successful therapy and an infection that has been overcome. On the other hand, the body needs some time to form antibodies, in the early stages the tests are often still negative.
If you don’t take antibiotics in time, you can have major health problems. If the patient suffers from neuroborreliosis, he may suffer from radiating pain in the spinal nerves, facial paralysis, meningitis or skeletal muscle inflammation. In most cases, these signs appear after a few weeks to months. Up to 46 percent of patients had erythema migrans in advance.
Another consequence of Lyme disease can be Lyme arthritis, permanent or relapsing Joint inflammation. The knee is usually affected. Very rarely, Lyme disease causes an abnormality in the transmission of stimuli to the heart or an inflammation of the heart muscle. In this case, doctors speak of Lyme carditis. There are also other skin symptoms that are rare. With acrodermatitis chronica athrophicans, which usually occurs on the arms and legs, the skin swells first, later the hair falls out and the fat and connective tissue are reduced and blood vessels emerge. Joints and nerve tissue can be affected. Borrelia lymphocytoma is observed again and again in children, it is a small reddish nodule often on the earlobes, nipple or in the genital area.
In contrast to TBE, there is no vaccination against Lyme disease in Germany. The only protection is to keep ticks away and, if the worst comes to the worst, remove them as quickly as possible. It gets dangerous in spring from a temperature of six degrees Celsius, because then the tick ticks become active and lurk in the grass or bushes for a new host. You can protect yourself with the following tips:
- Wear sturdy shoes, long pants and shirts. Put your pants in your socks.
- Light clothing makes the little crawlers more visible.
- Look for ticks after spending time outdoors, also look into the skin folds and on the head.
- Wash your laundry at at least 60 degrees Celsius.
- If a tick has bitten, remove it immediately. The winners are not transmitted until a few hours later. Make sure to remove the animal as completely as possible and not to squeeze it. If possible, use tick pliers or cards from the pharmacy. Otherwise, remove the tick with tweezers or your fingernails. Pull or push the tick out of the skin, do not use oil.
- Disinfect the sting.
- So-called repellents for the skin offer additional protection for a few hours.
- Ticks from cats and dogs like to migrate to humans and should be removed or avoided from the outset with a tick collar or anti-tick agent.