A tick (Ixodes ricinus) is an arachnid a few millimetres long and dark in colour. Ticks are prevalent in the whole of Finland except for the northernmost regions. Ticks are usually found in grass, shrubs, hay and undergrowth. Ticks can also be carried by an animal. The tick season in Finland lasts from April till November.
A small number of ticks spread diseases such as borreliosis (Lyme disease), tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) and, rarely, tularemia. There is a vaccination against TBE.
Tick bites are usually 1–2 cm wide lumps that are red and itchy. A symptom of Lyme disease is a circular red skin rash around a tick bite that develops within a couple of days or even a month. The circular rash may grow 5 cm or even tens of centimetres in diameter.
Self-care – removing the tick
If possible, do not handle a tick with bare hands and use protective gloves to avoid the spreading of possible diseases. Grab the tick with a tick removal tool, tweezers or fingers as close to the skin as possible. Pull the insect upwards steadily with a rotating movement. Do not shake, tear or scratch the insect out of the skin so that it does not drop and leave its head inside the skin. This may increase the risk of spreading the disease the tick is carrying. Any parts of the tick that remain in the skin will usually disappear spontaneously with the wound excretion.
After the tick is removed, carefully clean and disinfect the skin area. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water afterwards. Dispose the tick carefully, for example by burning. Remember to ensure fire safety to avoid further accidents.
When walking through grassy grounds and undergrowth, wear long boots and tuck your trousers inside your socks. Cut the grass in your garden short. Give your clothes a good shake before going indoors.
If you have or spend time with pets, it is worth using tick repellents. Check your family and your pets for ticks every night if you are spending time where ticks are prevalent.
There is a vaccine against tick-borne encephalitis, which is recommended especially to those living and spending time in areas where ticks are prevalent.
When should you seek medical advice?
Keep an eye on the tick bite for a couple of weeks. If a large, circular red rash (sometimes with a white area in the middle) appears, seek medical advice.
If you have a temperature, aching joints, muscle weakness, nausea or symptoms of paralysis within weeks of a tick bite, call medical assistance immediately.
There is no need to see a healthcare professional if you have no symptoms following a tick bite or removing a tick. If you are unable to remove the tick as described above, it is advisable to contact a nurse's office within 24 hours.
Pregnant women should contact a healthcare professional following a tick bite to assess the situation.
This Self-care instruction has been produced in collaboration with Duodecim Terveyskirjasto