Tick Talk: Setting the Record Straight on Tick Myths and Realities

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Riin Rehemaa
Social Media & Community Manager

Ticks are small, blood-sucking parasites that are notorious for transmitting diseases to humans and animals. As a result, ticks have become a topic of concern and interest for many people, especially in Northern Europe, where the rates of tick-borne diseases are among the highest in Europe. 

Unfortunately, there are several myths and misconceptions about ticks that often lead to misunderstandings and misinformation. These myths can result in inadequate precautions being taken, leading to increased risks of tick bites and tick-borne diseases. But worry not! In this blog post, we’ll set the record straight by debunking the top myths about ticks.

We want to raise awareness about the real risks associated with ticks, so you can enjoy the outdoors in Finland or any other area with a high tick population without worry. Armed with the right knowledge and preventive measures, you can confidently take on the great outdoors while minimizing the risk of tick-borne diseases.

Myth 1: Ticks only exist in rural areas

One common myth about ticks is that they are only found in rural areas. However, ticks can be found in a variety of environments, including urban and suburban areas. While it’s true that ticks are commonly found in wooded areas, grasslands, and shrubby regions, they can also be present in your own backyard, public parks, or even in your city’s green spaces. Ticks can attach to animals like deer, birds, and rodents, which can then bring them into residential areas. It’s essential to be vigilant and take preventive measures regardless of where you live or spend time outdoors.

Myth 2: Ticks are insects

Another common misconception is that ticks are insects. In reality, ticks are not insects but are instead arachnids, which are closely related to spiders and mites. Ticks have eight legs, whereas insects have six legs. This distinction is important because ticks have different biology and behavior compared to insects, and their control and prevention methods may vary.

Myth 3: Ticks jump or fly to attach to their host

Ticks do not jump or fly to attach to their host. Instead, ticks use a behavior called “questing.” They typically climb to the tips of grass, shrubs, or other vegetation and extend their legs in search of a passing host. When a host brushes against the vegetation, the tick grabs onto the host with its legs and then crawls upward to find a suitable spot to attach and feed. This passive waiting behavior makes it important to be cautious when walking through areas with tall grass or vegetation, especially during peak tick season.

Myth 4: Only certain ticks transmit Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a common tick-borne illness, and there is a widespread myth that only deer ticks can transmit Lyme disease. However, multiple species of ticks can transmit Lyme disease, including black-legged ticks (commonly known as deer ticks), as well as other types of ticks, such as the western black-legged tick and the lone star tick. It’s important to note that different tick species may carry different diseases, and the risk of disease transmission can vary depending on the region and the type of tick present.

Myth 5: You can easily remove a tick with a lit match, nail polish, or petroleum jelly

There are various home remedies and myths about how to remove a tick, but many of them are not effective and can even be harmful. Using a lit match, nail polish, petroleum jelly, or other substances to try to suffocate or kill a tick can actually cause the tick to regurgitate its stomach contents into the host, potentially increasing the risk of disease transmission. The best and safest way to remove a tick is to use fine-tipped tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Gently pull upward with steady pressure to ensure that the tick is removed intact without leaving any mouthparts behind.

Myth 6: Tick bites are painless and harmless

Tick bites are not always painless, and they can cause various health concerns. While some tick bites may not cause immediate symptoms, ticks can transmit many diseases and infections. For people moving to Finland or other areas with a high tick population, it’s important to be aware of tick-borne diseases prevalent in the region. In Finland, ticks are known to carry diseases such as Lyme disease, tick-borne encephalitis, and anaplasmosis, which can pose a risk to human health. You should always take appropriate precautions when spending time outdoors, such as wearing long sleeves, pants tucked into socks, and using insect repellents that are effective against ticks.

Myth 7: Tick repellents are not safe for children or pets.

Tick repellents are available in various formulations, including sprays, lotions, and creams, and they are safe for use on children and pets when used according to the instructions. There are also tick-repellent products specifically formulated for pets, such as tick collars and spot-on treatments. In case you’re confused, consult with a healthcare provider or veterinarian to determine the appropriate tick-repellent products for your specific needs.

Myth 8: Once you have been bitten by a tick, there is nothing you can do.

If you are bitten by a tick, it’s important to take prompt action. Using fine-tipped tweezers, gently grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upward with steady pressure to remove the tick intact. After removing the tick, clean the bite area with soap and water, and monitor for any signs of illness, such as fever, rash, or flu-like symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne diseases are crucial for a successful recovery.

Myth 9: Tick-borne diseases are rare and not a significant concern

Contrary to this myth, tick-borne diseases are not rare in Finland and can pose a significant concern for human health. There has been an increase in the number of reported cases of Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis in recent years. 

Expats moving to Finland or any other location with a high tick population should be aware of the prevalence of tick-borne diseases in the area and take appropriate preventive measures to reduce their risk of exposure. This may include wearing protective clothing, using insect repellents, conducting regular tick checks, and seeking medical attention if bitten by a tick.

Additionally, it’s crucial to ensure you have proper vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis before the tick season begins, as it is a recommended and effective preventive measure. Proper vaccination can provide an added layer of protection against tick-borne diseases and is an essential consideration for anyone living or spending time in Finland during the tick season. 

A good time to start vaccinating is now!

In conclusion, it’s crucial to debunk myths about ticks and understand that they are not limited to rural areas. Ticks can be found in various environments, including urban areas, and can transmit serious diseases like Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis. If you’re moving to Finland or any other area with a high tick population, taking appropriate precautions is essential to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Using tick repellents, wearing protective clothing, practicing proper tick removal techniques, and seeking medical attention if bitten by a tick are all important preventive measures. Staying informed about ticks and tick-borne diseases is also crucial, and getting vaccinated against tick-borne encephalitis is a key preventive measure. In Finland, April is the perfect time to start vaccination to ensure immunity before the tick season begins.

At Salu, our doctors are available seven days a week to provide expert guidance, advice, and medical assistance, ensuring you can access professional help whenever needed. Don’t let myths about ticks put you at risk. Take proactive steps to stay informed, prepared, and protected against tick-borne diseases, and enjoy the outdoors in Finland with peace of mind.

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