A tick (Ixodes ricinus) is an arachnid a few millimetres long and dark in colour; it bites people and feeds on blood. Ticks may spread diseases such as tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), tularaemia, and borreliosis. You can remove a tick attached to the skin yourself.
Ticks are prevalent in the whole of Finland and the tick season lasts from April till November all over the country with the exception of the northernmost regions. Ticks are usually found in grass, shrubs, hay and undergrowth. Ticks can also be carried by an animal. A small number of ticks spread diseases such as borreliosis, tick-borne encephalitis, and tularaemia which may be transmitted also to humans.
Tick bites are usually 2–3 cm wide red spots reacting to irritation. The bite is usually painless, but may be itchy. In rare cases a bluish, painless, smooth and soft bump may appear around the bite. This is most common around the ear, scrotum or nipple. The most common early sign of infection is an expanding red rash, over 5 cm in diameter, which appears at the site of the tick bite about a week after it occurred. The centre of the red area may clear as the rash expands. If left untreated, redness will disappear within 2 to 4 weeks, however, in some cases it may take months. Borreliosis on.infection is treated by a course of antibiotics. Untreated borreliosis can cause many symptoms later
To avoid tick bites, wear boots and long pants tucked into your socks when walking in tall grass, hay or woods. Give your clothes a good shake before going indoors. Keep the grass and shrubs short in the garden to control ticks. Use of tick repellents might be a good idea especially if you have pets. Check your family and pets for ticks regularly if you go to areas, where ticks are prevalent. There is a vaccine against tick-borne encephalitis, which is recommended to those living and spending time in areas where ticks are prevalent.
Removing the tick
Pull the tick off the skin with a steady upward movement. When handling ticks, use protective gloves to avoid the spreading of possible diseases. Grab the tick with a tick removal tool or fingers as close to the skin as possible. In addition to pulling upwards you could try a rotating movement. Do not shake or tear the tick as this can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. Tick parts possibly remaining in the skin usually come off with the wound excretion.
The risk of borreliosis infection from a tick that was attached to your skin less 24 hours is minimal.
After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area. You can use also a disinfectant for skin. Dispose of the tick by burning and wash your hands carefully with soap and water after handling the tick.
You should seek medical advice, if
- you cannot remove the tick
- a large (over 5 cm), circular red rash appears within a fortnight, possibly with a white area in the middle.
- weeks after the tick bite incident, you develop vague symptoms, for instance a temperature, joint symptoms, muscle weakness, nausea or symptoms of paralysis.
- Pregnant women should contact a healthcare professional.
Emergency care professionals have produced the instruction in collaboration with Terveyskirjasto.