Categories: Health & Fitness

5 things to know about ticks

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Ticks are not a glamorous subject. They are not pretty to look at, transmit diseases and suck our blood: nothing to make us dream of! But they were also responsible for 47,000 cases of Lyme disease in 2021 in France (i.e. an incidence of 71 cases per 100,000 inhabitants according to Public Health France); it is therefore essential to know them well in order to better protect yourself against them.

Is the tick an insect?

No, ticks are not insects! They have eight legs, no antennae, do not fly or jump. These are therefore arachnids, like spiders. Their technique for feed on the blood of their prey simply consists of hiding in the grass or foliage and clinging to the hair of dogs, cats or the clothing of people who come near it.

“Ticks can live 6 years And withstand extreme temperatures », Adds the website of the Lym’PACT Association (source 1). “ They have predators : they can be eaten by certain birds, by foxes and by hens”, adds Dr Raffetin, infectiologist and coordinator of the Reference Center for Vector-borne Tick Diseases North (CRMVT).

Two large species of ticks

There are approx. 850 species of ticks in the world, reports the Association France Lyme on its website (source 2). Globally, ticks are divided into two big families : soft ticks (or Argasidae) and hard ticks (or Ixodidae). In France, there are 41 species of hard ticks. “The most important in terms of its distribution and its role in disease transmission is Ixodes ricinus, writes the Lym’PACT Association

How do ticks bite?

“These parasitic mites live in wooded and humid areas (forests, carpets of dead leaves, brush…), but are also present in the meadows (tall grass), in parks…”, writes the Health Insurance site (source 3).

“Thanks to their oral apparatus (the rostrum), ticks cling to the skin of animals (this is why we speak of tick bite instead of tick bite). These are most often wild animals (game, birds, rodents, etc.) and more rarely farm animals (cows, horses, etc.) Once attached to the skin, ticks gorge themselves on their blood,” explains the Health Insurance.

When biting, the tick emits a anesthetic saliva so that the host does not feel the bite, then “she begins to cut the skin with her little saws (the chelicerae) and gradually sink his hypostome to reach a small vessel,” describes the France Lyme Association.

Larva, nymph and adult tick can bite

You must know that ticks can bite at any stage of their development : larva, pupa and adult. In adult ticks, only females bite. Once bitten, the tick stays embedded in the skin. The tick only 3 meals in his lifeat each stage of its development.

Why does beech predict the presence of ticks?

Researchers have warned of a hitherto little-known tick multiplication factor, namely the presence of a specific tree, the beech. The discovery emerges from a study published in 2021 in the scientific journal Parasites and Vectors (source 4), based on data recorded over fifteen years in four sites at different altitudes in the Jura.

The results showed that the beech seed production is associated with an increase, two years later, in the density of infected Ixodes ricinus ticks by Lyme disease bacteria. The explanation was immediately found: if the number of seeds during a season increases, theabundance of rodents which are the main hosts of ticks also increases the following year. Thus, it increases the nymph tick density of the Ixodes ricinus type, but two years later. This finding is all the stronger during periods of seed production outbreaks, a phenomenon known as “masting”.

The researchers found that a switch between very low seed production and the highest level nearly doubles the density of infected nymphs. According to them, their results can have a predictive range. Their conclusions can therefore be summed up as follows: There will be a lot of ticks if the beeches produced a lot of seed two years ago. »

What attracts ticks to humans?

“We are very unequal in the face of tick bites”, indicates the infectiologist. Some will get bitten much more easily than others. ” There composition of sweat on the skin probably comes into play, even if, to my knowledge, there are not enough specific studies that can confirm this. There are also probably genetic varieties, which means that some people will be more sensitive to bites than others”.

“Some people are also very good at applying the prevention tips (high-top shoes, trousers tucked into socks, long-sleeved shirts, skin repellents on uncovered parts, etc.) when they are in risk areas,” adds the specialist.

Namely: ticks prefer slightly humid places on the human body – they will therefore preferentially lodge in the folds such as behind the knee, at the level of the groin, the buttocks line, behind the ears…

What are the risks of a tick bite for humans?

If a tick infected with bacteria bites a humanshe can transmit the bacteria responsible for the disease.

“The main pathogens transmitted by tick-borne diseases are bacteria (Lyme borreliosis, as well as about thirty other bacteria) or viral (various meningoencephalitis), and can infect the whole body. The symptoms are very variable, and can appear episodically”, reports the Lym’PACT Association.

Nevertheless, not all ticks are infected. For example, “after being bitten by a tick, there is a 95% chance that you will never develop Lyme disease. Only 5% of people will develop a clinical infection,” emphasizes Dr. Raffetin. “And in the forests, only 15% of ticks have Borrelia in their digestive tract.”

How do ticks transmit Lyme disease?

There are two known forms of transmission of the Borrelia-type bacteria, explains the infectious disease specialist:

  • Transovarian transmission of Borrelia : “When a female tick is pregnant, she will transmit Borrelia to her eggs. And once the baby tick is born, it will keep the bacteria all its life (without being sick)”, she explains;
  • Transmission by wild or domestic animals : Ticks that feed on certain animals can be contaminated with Borrelia. “Borrelia only makes you sick dogs, cats and horses. Other animals can be porters but without being sick, especially small rodents, squirrels, birds, deer…”. Conversely, a tick contaminated with Borrelia that feeds on an animal can also transmit the bacteria to it.

How to protect yourself from ticks?

The most risky seasons are spring and early fall.

  • To protect you wellwear long clothes that cover the arms and legs, if possible in a light color to better spot the tick on the fabric. Wear closed shoes;
  • If you plan to eat or take a nap, take a blanket or sheet so you don’t lie directly on the grass;
  • Use a repellent suitable on skin and clothing;
  • Avoid walking through tall grass and favor marked paths;

Finally, “after being in an area at risk of ticks, even if you have protected yourself well, always check yourself to see if any ticks have stuck,” advises Dr. Raffetin, Be sure to check your whole body, not forgetting the armpits, the hollow of the knees, the pubis, the navel, the scalp and the back of the ears.

I recommend inspecting your body in the shower : this allows you to see small ticks that are very difficult to spot (larvae, nymphs) which sometimes only look like a black dot. If you feel some kind of small relief on the skin, we must ask someone to inspect us quickly”.

How to remove a tick attached under the skin?

If you have a tick on your body, your loved ones will probably tell you to remove it by putting a drop of oil, alcohol or gasoline on it, to suffocate it and force it to pop its head out on its own. Gold, these homemade techniques have not been validated by experts. Ticks can survive for a very long time without breathing.

The only solution to remove a tick: suitable tweezers

If you have been bitten or think you have been bitten, go to the pharmacy as soon as possible to get yourself a pull-tick.

“We remove the tick using the tick remover, a kind of little crowbar that we will come slip at the insertion of the tick on the skin. Then we will gently pull by making a rotational movement, and the tick will remove itself. Don’t forget to turn while pulling, otherwise the biting parts of the tick, in the shape of a spur, will remain attached under the skin”, advises Dr Raffetin.

“If it is not possible to obtain a tick remover, it is also possible to use a tweezers, but you have to be careful do not press too hard so as not to crush the tick “. The goal is to unhook the tick without it tearing.

After removing it:

  • Flush it down the toilet or keep it in an airtight bag to take to your doctor;
  • Rinse the bite area with soap and water or wipe it with alcohol to disinfect thoroughly;
  • Consult your doctor on how to watch for signs of a possible infection.


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