Tick bite

Online-dermatologist: Cause, symptoms and treatment

When walking in the woods or meadows, a tick can quickly attach itself to the skin. This can transmit two dangerous diseases: Lyme disease and early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE), both of which require treatment. We explain what these diseases mean, how they develop and what can be done against them.

Cause

Where and when do ticks occur?

Principally, ticks can live everywhere, not only in the forest or on large meadows. They also live in bushes, along paths and near streams. The danger of contracting a tick bite exists mainly from spring to late fall.

Areas such as Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg are considered risk areas in Germany. There are also some cases of TBE-carrying ticks in Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, central Hesse, southern Hesse, Saxony and Thuringia. The first risk area in northern Germany is the district of Emsland in Lower Saxony.

Risk area does not mean that visits to nature should be avoided, but that preventive measures should be taken, especially for children. Furthermore, not all ticks are disease carriers. Infection is possible, but not always likely.

Symptoms

What symptoms can one develop from a tick bite?

At first, all you see is a black dot on the skin that enlarges. This is a tick that is sucking blood and growing as a result.

Why is it important to check for ticks? The longer the tick remains in the skin, the higher the risk of infection, so it should be removed as soon as possible. Preferred sites for tick bites are the legs and ankles, but the arms, armpit, abdomen, back or head can also be affected. Ticks also like to attach themselves to warm areas of the skin, e.g. the hairline.

Treatment

How do you treat Lyme disease or TBE?

Lyme disease (also Lyme borreliosis) is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, but can be treated well with antibiotics if detected early.

When the TBE virus appears, the symptoms can only be reduced, the basic disease usually heals on its own. For young people and children, the disease is usually harmless, but for older people, the infection can have serious and long-term consequences.

Closed shoes and tight-fitting clothing are preventive measures. Adults and children can be vaccinated against TBE; no vaccine protection is available against Lyme disease.

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The images in the slideshow below were provided by the Dermatology Department of the University Medical Centre Göttingen.

Written by Dr. med Alice Martin

Dr. med. Alice Martin ist Hautärztin in Weiterbildung und verantwortlich für die fachliche Redaktion bei dermanostic. Sie übernimmt die öffentliche Patientenkommunikation und schreibt medizinische Artikel.

Literature and references