Attention! Ticks - What should be considered when running in the summer?

In spring, summer and fall, the tick waits in the forest, on the meadow, in the park and even in its own garden for a passing potential host. This can be a human or animal, depending on the "offer". In some parts of the country, the tick is more commonly known as the wood tick. In common parlance, however, it means the same animal or parasite. If humans do not pick up the tick directly, pets, such as dogs or cats, can also serve as vectors. When petted, the tick can jump from the animal to the human to suck blood. Runners are especially vulnerable to tick bites when trail running or running in the woods.

The habitat of ticks

Ticks do not only live in the forest, but actually lurk everywhere in nature. As mentioned at the beginning, the runner can also encounter the tick in the park and on the meadow. The lurkers among the ticks climb on a plant, for example a blade of grass, and wait until a potential host passes by, and then cling to it. The climbers actively move forward, always on the lookout for hosts or humans.

A fleeting brush of a branch can result in a tick jumping over. But they can also lurk in the grass. Especially, who is on the way with his training partner dog, should keep the risk, which comes from ticks, in the back of the head.

In the south of Germany the danger of ticks is particularly high, but also in the rest of Germany one meets almost everywhere the small animals. According to the Robert Koch Institute, the states of Bavaria, Hesse, Baden Württemberg and parts of Thuringia are defined as TBE risk areas.

What danger do ticks pose?

Once the tick has found a host, it usually seeks out regions with good blood supply for the bite. In humans, these are usually the armpits and the groin area. With their barbed proboscis, they burrow under the skin and start sucking blood, which serves as food. Males are usually finished after one to two days, as they only need to feed themselves. Due to the rearing of the young, blood sucking by the females can take up to 15 days. One does not notice the bite of the tick itself, as the saliva of the animals has an anesthetic effect. However, one may notice a crawling sensation on the body.

Two serious diseases can be transmitted by a tick bite: Lyme disease and TBE (early summer meningoencephalitis). A majority of tick bites are problem-free, but about 5% of all ticks are infected with Lyme disease or TBE.

Lyme disease, is an infectious disease that can affect different organs even after months or even years. For example, joints, nerves, heart, eyes or the meninges can be affected. There are no preventive measures against Lyme disease, after outbreak it must be treated with antibiotics. A Lyme disease infection is usually recognizable by the so-called wandering redness, in which the skin around the puncture turns red. Sometimes this redness only appears after several days.

TBE can also be transmitted by a tick bite. It is a febrile viral disease that can lead to severe meningitis and permanent damage to the central nervous system. Only about 1/5 of all patients infected with TBE recover completely from this disease. Severe functional disorders or even death of the patient can be recorded as consequential damages.

"The sweating runner represents a particularly attractive "host animal" for the tick, because of the acidic smell of sweat."

How can I protect myself?

There is a vaccination against TBE. Weighing the risk that arises from a possible tick bite, the place of residence or vacation and the risk that arises from the vaccination, or the so-called vaccination side effects, everyone must decide for themselves whether a TBE vaccination is useful. Vaccines are also offered for children, here the concentration of the active substance is only about 50% compared to the products for adults. There is no vaccination against Lyme disease.

Regardless of the vaccination, every runner can actively protect himself from ticks by taking certain measures.

  • Since ticks sit in brush or tall grass waiting for a host from which they must be grazed in order to attach themselves to it with their front legs, it is advisable not to leave the path in the forest. If possible, bushes should not be striped. The sweating runner is a particularly attractive "host animal" for the tick, because of the sour smell of sweat.
  • It is advisable to wear long clothing and closed shoes in the forest. Do not walk barefoot on soft forest soil. Socks should be worn over pants to prevent ticks from getting on the skin. If temperatures permit, it is also always advisable to wear long-sleeved tops in the forest. It is also advantageous to wear light-colored running clothes so that you can quickly spot the little animals. Once they have landed on us runners, they look for a suitable place for their meal before biting.
  • By using commercially available sprays with an insect repellent effect (repellents), the risk of ticks hitting humans can be reduced. There are studies and testimonials to read about the effectiveness of various products. We recommend a thorough consultation at the pharmacy and, despite the use of a spray, not to rely 100% on its effect and still take to heart the other protective measures.
  • After training, one should immediately take a shower and wash the hair thoroughly. Clothing should also be checked.

What to do in case of a tick bite?

If the tick has found its way into the skin despite all precautions, it should be removed as quickly as possible. With tick forceps or tweezers, the tick can be removed from the skin with a gentle tug. Afterwards, the bite site should be disinfected and, in the best case, photographed. It is advisable to observe the site of the bite for another four weeks so that any redness that appears later can still be attributed to the tick bite. Often one has forgotten the exact bite site after one or two weeks. If you find the usually circular red spots on skin, you should see a doctor as soon as possible, he will examine the blood and in the very likely case of infection with Lyme disease prescribe an antibiotic.

In any case, avoid squeezing the abdomen of the tick too much. Killing with alcohol, nail polish or similar and turning them in a certain direction should also be refrained from in order to prevent viruses from entering the skin. Such measures increase the salivation of the tick and the resulting transmission of pathogens.

Symptoms such as joint pain and loss of performance should also be thought of as a tick bite and the doctor should be consulted. The cause does not always have to be found in overtraining.

In summary:

  • Ticks transmit TBE and Lyme disease.
  • June - September is tick season, in the summer months especially think about preventive measures and possibly vaccination protection.
  • After the run: check thoroughly for ticks on clothing or skin.
  • Immediately after training: take a shower.

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