Sign: A small cause of major health risks – what you need to know!

Update: 21 april 2024

Ticks, tiny arachnid critters that feed on the blood of humans and animals, can get on our skin unnoticed and cause potentially serious health problems. In this blog we take a closer look at ticks, their characteristics, the transmission of the Borrelia bacteria that can cause Lyme disease, how to recognize and remove ticks properly. Read on to learn more about this small but important health issue.

What are ticks and how do you recognize them?

Ticks are small parasitic insects that live mainly in forests, grasslands and scrub. They are especially active during the warm seasons, such as spring and summer. With their flat and oval-shaped body and eight legs, ticks can attach themselves to our skin and feed on our blood. This can have potentially dangerous consequences.


One of the main diseases that ticks can transmit is Lyme disease, caused by the spirochete bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria is transmitted through a tick bite, usually from the Ixodes ricinus tick (in the US: Ixodes dammini).

Borrelia bacteria and Lyme disease:

Tick ​​bites can pose a significant health risk due to the possible transmission of the Borrelia bacteria, which is responsible for Lyme disease. It is important to understand that not all ticks are infected with the bacteria. The chance that a tick carries the spirochete bacteria varies depending on the region and the tick population. Studies have shown that the infection rate of ticks with the Borrelia bacteria is about 20%

In the early stage of Lyme disease, a tick bite can lead to skin lesions, of which erythema (chronicum) migrans, also called ECM, is the most common form. Occurs about 77% of cases. Erythema migrans is characterized by a distinctive red annular rash around the site of the tick bite. In the acute stage, ECM may also be accompanied by fever, headache, fatigue, lethargy, myalgias, stiff neck, and transient arthritis (fewer than 4 joints, asymmetric, often involving the knees), sore throat, and gastrointestinal distress. The groin glands are usually enlarged.

Erythema Migrans, Moderately Sharply Defined Redness

If Lyme disease is left untreated or not treated in a timely manner, late manifestations can occur. Acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans is an example of such a late manifestation and occurs in about 3% of cases. Other common manifestations are neuroborreliosis, which affects the nervous system (16%), arthritis, which causes inflammation of the joints (7%), and Borrelia lymphocytoma, a swelling caused by an inflammatory response to the tick bite (3%).

The course of Lyme disease varies depending on the stage at which the patient is treated. In the early stage, when treatment is started quickly, there is a good chance that patients will recover completely and have no residual symptoms. A similar benefit can be achieved in later-stage patients, provided they are treated soon after the onset of symptoms. It is important to note that the longer treatment is delayed, the greater the likelihood of residual complications.

Safe and effective tick removal

It is important to remove ticks properly to minimize the risk of infection. Here are some steps to safely remove a tick. Take tweezers, for example tweezers or tick tweezers, with which you can grab the tick without crushing it. These tweezers are available at the drugstore or pharmacy.

Place the tweezers over the tick as close to the skin as possible. It is important not to pre-sedate the tick with oil, alcohol, a lighted cigarette or other means, as this can startle the tick and cause it to empty its stomach contents of bacteria into your skin. This increases the risk of infection.

Gently pull the tick out of the skin with a light twisting motion, without crushing it. It is important to pull constantly and gradually until the tick detaches from the skin. Be patient because ticks are firmly attached. Avoid pinching the tick’s body.

There are also special tick tweezers, tick keys and tick credit cards with a slot, which are useful for people who regularly come into contact with ticks. Nails can also be used to remove ticks, but the tweezers method is preferred.

An alternative method of painlessly removing ticks from children is as follows: a dry paper towel was used on which about 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid was applied until soaked. Then the dish soap was gently massaged over the tick. By this method, all ticks were completely detached from their attachment site and were found on the paper towel with the head still intact. This method can be used as a second choice, with the tweezers method as the first choice.

Do not use harsh products such as benzene, nail polish or alcohol, and avoid burning cigarettes. These agents are counterproductive because the aggressive substances can actually cause the tick to bite more firmly into the skin. Moreover, their use can cause saliva contaminated with microorganisms to be secreted into the body.

After the tick is removed, it is important to disinfect the wound with 70 percent alcohol, iodine tincture or iodine ointment. It is also advisable to note the date of the tick bite in your calendar. In the coming weeks, pay close attention to the skin around the tick bite site. In case of a possible infection, consult a doctor immediately.

Prevention and protection from tick bites

In addition to the proper removal of ticks, taking preventive measures is critical to avoiding tick bites. Below we discuss several helpful tips and methods you can apply to protect yourself from tick bites:

  1. Wear Protective Clothing: Wearing long sleeves, long pants, and closed-toe shoes can help cover your skin and prevent ticks from making direct contact with your body. Preferably choose light-colored clothing, as ticks will be more easily visible.

Benefits: Protects large areas of the body from tick bites and minimizes exposure to ticks.

Disadvantages: Can be uncomfortable in hot weather

  1. Use insect repellents: Apply insect repellents to exposed areas of skin, such as arms and legs. Choose a product that contains DEET, picaridin or IR3535 because these substances are effective against ticks.

Benefits: Enhances protection against tick bites and other insect bites, provides long-lasting protection.

Disadvantages: May cause irritation in people with sensitive skin, must be reapplied regularly according to product instructions.

  1. Avoid dense vegetation: They are often found in tall grass, shrubs and dense vegetation. Try to avoid these areas as much as possible, especially in areas such as forests, meadows and parks.

Benefits: Reduces risk of bites by avoiding these environments.

Disadvantages: May restrict outdoor activities and exploration of natural environment.

Combining these preventive measures can further increase effectiveness and significantly reduce the risk of tick bites. It is important to be aware of the risks posed by ticks and take necessary steps to minimize exposure to tick bites. Remember to check yourself and others for ticks after an outdoor activity and, if necessary, remove ticks appropriately.

They are most common in wooded and grassy areas where humidity is high. Areas with lots of undergrowth and leaf litter also provide ideal conditions.

Wearing light-colored clothing helps make them more visible. Long sleeves and trouser legs, as well as closed shoes and socks, reduce the chance that they can come into direct contact with the skin.

Yes, they can also transmit diseases to pets like dogs and cats, similar to the diseases they cause in humans, including Lyme disease.

Early symptoms may include fatigue, fever, headache, and a characteristic ring-shaped rash. If left untreated, the disease can lead to more serious neurological or joint problems.

They usually need to be stuck for 24 to 48 hours before they can transmit the Borrelia bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Quickly removing ticks is therefore crucial to prevent transmission.

While you are here

Fortunately, there are fewer processionary caterpillars this year, but it is still important to be aware of their presence. These caterpillars, also known as oak processionary caterpillars because of their occurrence in oak trees, carry up to 70,000 fire hairs. These hairs can cause various health problems in people, including skin problems. Thus, it is essential to be alert and take appropriate precautions to avoid contact with these caterpillars.

Itch complaints

It is the fire hairs of the caterpillars that cause problems for humans and animals. The fire hairs can cause a nuisance within a radius of 100 meters around the tree of a caterpillar nest. When threatened, the fire hairs are shot by the caterpillar. Are airborne and spread by the wind.

The hairs of 0.2-0.3 mm then penetrate the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. The stinging hairs are elongated in shape and are provided with barbs.

Most symptoms are skin rash, pain, and itching. Red spots, blisters and spots appear within 8 hours. The itching and rash can sometimes be confused with scabies or eczema

Want to read more about processionary caterpillars

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Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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