The best strategy against tick bites is not to get bitten. By following several strategies, we can at least reduce the risk substantially. Since tick bites can have terrible health effects, we do not really have a choice.
Berlin, July 15th, 2021. Update: August 1st, 2022 (The Berlin Spectator) — There are ticks and ticks. One category carries dangerous diseases like FSME or borreliosis also known as Lyme disease. The other one does not. It is not so much about ticks themselves, but about the pathogens they can carry in certain areas. In Germany, the risk increases in the south and the east, depending on what disease we are talking about.
Lyme Disease and ESME
Most borreliosis cases have been registered in the eastern half of Germany, from Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia via Saxony-Anhalt to Brandenburg, Berlin and Mecklenburg-Hither Pomerania. In the western part of the country, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland are affected too. Borreliosis is a dangerous disease, but it can be treated well when diagnosed on time. There is no vaccine.
ESME/TBE is even more dangerous, also because it is more difficult to treat and it can have long-term effects. In this case, there is a vaccine. In Germany, there are ESME maps that show where most cases have been reported. This risk area is quite large as well. It includes Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg as well as the southern parts of Hesse, Thuringia and Saxony. A few cases have been reported in parts of Lower Saxony.
Keeping Ticks Away
Who would give up nice vacation plans in the Black Forest or elsewhere because of animals that are so tiny they are hard to see? Instead of scrapping the vacation, decreasing the chance of getting bitten is probably the right thing to do. Getting a vaccination a few months or even a year ahead might be the best idea of them all. People who thought of it too late or have other reasons for not getting vaccinated can follow these rules when they are in those risk areas:
>> In forests and nature in general, try to stay away from high grass and the underbrush in forests. Do not leave the paths.
>> Wear closed shoes, long pants (yes, trousers) and long sleeves. In order to deny ticks the opportunity to climb up your pant leg, pull your socks over your pants. Try to wear clothing in light colors because ticks are easier to see that way.
>> When you return to the holiday apartment, hotel, camper or tent, check your body, from your head down to your toes. Ticks like our knee pits, bellies, chests, breasts and genital areas. And check your clothes as well.
>> Use repellents against ticks. You can get them at almost any pharmacy or drug store in Germany. While you are there, get a tick removal tool as well, just in case.
Pulling Out Ticks
In case you find a tick on your body or on your child, the most important aspect is to grab the tick close to the skin without squeezing or crushing it, and to pull it out slowly. This is about trying to make sure no fluids get into your body during the removal process. Just remember: Not getting bitten at all is a lot better than getting bitten. Since the risk is high, we should follow all strategies we know to prevent ticks from doing what they do best.