A tick's bite

Tick bites can be difficult to distinguish from other insect bites or stings if the tick is no longer attached to the skin. The dangerous reputation of ticks is due to the fact that they spread diseases, the most common of which are Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis, which can be prevented with tick-borne encephalitis vaccination.

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Ticks are not only a nuisance in the southern archipelago, but you can get bitten by ticks in lakeside areas as well as along the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia all the way to Simo and Kemi. Ticks usually thrive in humid, herb-rich forest environments in beach areas and in high grass.

How to prevent tick bites

Tick bites are best prevented by wearing protective clothes and performing tick bite inspections regularly. When walking in a natural environment, it is a good idea to wear high boots, long-sleeved trousers and a long-sleeved shirt and to wear your socks over the trouser legs. Wearing light-coloured clothing makes it easier to detect ticks.

Tick inspections should be made at least once a day. If you move outdoors a lot, you should perform the inspection a couple of times a day. The risk of tick infestation is significantly smaller if the tick is detected at an early stage. In a tick inspection, it is advisable to carefully examine the bends of your arms and feet and behind your ear. It is also a good idea to run your fingers through your scalp.

Tick bites may occur in warm autumns even until November, so it is good to continue the inspections after the summer season. Ticks may be transported indoors in the fur of a dog and transferred to a person, so it is also worth doing a tick inspection after your dog has been outdoors.

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Tick bites in children?

The most common locations of tick bites in children are the neck, behind the ears and the hairline. Older children may also have tick bites on their legs and arms.

Learn more:
Children’s Mehiläinen helps with children’s health issues

What does a tick bite look like?

The tick is 1–3 mm in size at different stages of development, but if it ingests blood, it can swell up to 10 mm. Even though the hypostome of a tick is full of “hooks”, the feast on blood can go unnoticed as the saliva secreted by the tick includes, for example, anaesthetics.

Tick bite symptoms

A tick bite mark may be difficult to detect or distinguish from other insect bites or stings if the tick has been removed from the skin before the bite is detected. Once a tick burrows into the skin, a small red area is likely to appear, just like in the case of other insect bites. This reaction can be alleviated with an antihistamine like cetirizine, for example.

Once the tick has been removed or a bite has been detected, the area of the skin should be monitored every few days. The easiest way to do so is to write down the date and location of the bite or to take a photo of the bite. If a rash accompanied by a circular or an even flush with a diameter of at least 5 cm from the bite area begins to develop on the skin, the onset of Lyme disease is possible and you should see a doctor for antibiotic therapy.

Learn more:
Did you get bitten by a tick? Be quick and careful and record the area of the bite

How to remove a tick

If a tick is burrowed into your skin, it must be removed as quickly as possible. The easiest way to remove a tick is to use a lasso-like instrument or a pair of thin tweezers in order to get a good grip of the tick as close to the skin as possible.

Tick removal:

  • Grab the tick with a lasso-like instrument or a pair of thin tweezers as close to the skin as possible.
  • The tick can be removed with a slow and careful upward pulling movement. Avoid twisting or squeezing the tick excessively. In some cases, the tick’s proboscis may remain in the skin, but it will be removed spontaneously after a while, and it usually does not cause any harm.
  • Once the tick has been removed, the area of the skin where the tick was burrowed can be cleaned with a disinfectant. This procedure reduces the risk of a skin infection, but it has not been shown to have any effect in the prevention of the onset of Lyme disease.

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Infections caused by ticks

The most common infections caused by ticks are Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis. The onset of the “wandering flush” (erythema migrans) associated with Lyme disease only occurs several days, weeks or even months after the tick bite.

Tick-borne encephalitis viruses can cause an infection immediately after the tick has burrowed itself into your skin and, in order to prevent such an infection, a daily inspection is not enough. Anyone who moves in an area that involves the risk of tick-borne encephalitis is advised to get vaccinated.

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1. Tick-borne encephalitis

In Finland, the greatest risk of contracting tick-borne encephalitis is mainly in coastal areas and in the vicinity of other large bodies of water. In the region of the Åland Islands, the prevalence of the disease is high by international standards.

Tick-borne encephalitis is prevalent in, for example:

  • The Åland Islands
  • The Turku Archipelago
  • The coastal areas and islands of Helsinki, Espoo, Kirkkonummi and Raseborg
  • Around Lake Lohjanjärvi
  • The Lappeenranta and Imatra region

Individual cases of tick-borne encephalitis are also possible in other coastal areas. The number of infections, however, is probably significantly higher than the number of diagnosed cases.

Tick-borne encephalitis is prevalent in other parts of the world:

  • Sweden: Stockholm archipelago and the coastline south of Stockholm, also Gotland and Öland
  • The Baltic countries
  • Russia
  • Certain parts of Central and Eastern Europe, for example, Austrian Alps

A tick-borne encephalitis infection can also spread through unpasteurised milk of cows, goats and sheep who are infected with the disease. Eating and drinking unpasteurised dairy products should be avoided in the risk areas.

2. Lyme disease

Ticks can also spread Lyme disease in Southern and Central Finland as far north as the Oulu region. Tick-borne encephalitis vaccination does not provide protection against Lyme disease, and people who have been vaccinated should also protect themselves from tick bites. You should see a doctor immediately if the tick bite causes a circular rash that indicates Lyme disease to develop on the skin.

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Frequently asked questions about tick bites

What does a tick bite look like?

A tick bite may be difficult to distinguish from other insect stings or bites if the tick has detached from the skin. The bite area will likely develop a small red area, just like in the case of other insect bites. You should see a doctor immediately if the tick bite causes a circular rash that indicates Lyme disease to develop on the skin.

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What is the rash caused by a tick bite like?

Tick bite areas can be red, just like other insect bites and stings. A rash that indicates Lyme disease caused by tick bite spreads circularly or develops an even red area from the bite and grows to over five centimetres.

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Do tick bites itch?

Tick bites can be red and itchy, just like other insect bites and stings. This reaction can be alleviated with an antihistamine like cetirizine, for example.

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When should I see a doctor if I have been bitten?

If there is a clear, circular rash at the bite site that is spreading, you should seek urgent medical attention. Lyme disease infections should be treated as early as possible with an antibiotic.

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Does the tick-borne encephalitis vaccine protect against tick bites?

The vaccine does not prevent tick bites, but protects against tick-borne encephalitis.

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How to prevent tick bites

The best way to prevent tick bites is to protect yourself with clothes when walking in natural environments and to carry out regular tick inspections.

BOOK AN APPOINTMENT FOR A TICK-BORNE ENCEPHALITIS VACCINATION

How do you remove a tick?

The easiest way to remove a tick is with a lasso-like instrument or a pair of thin tweezers. Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible, pull slowly and carefully upwards and avoid squeezing and twisting. Once the tick has been removed, clean the skin site with a disinfectant to reduce the risk of infection.

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Can pets like cats or dogs spread ticks?

Yes. Outdoor pets must also be regularly inspected for ticks.

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