Ticks in the Czech Republic

How to avoid them, how to remove them, and how to recognize and deal with tick-borne diseases

Summer means hiking in the woods, picking berries, camping under the stars -- and ticks.

And ticks (klíšťata; singular klíště) happen to gather where we enjoy these outdoor pastimes.

Ticks mostly live in wooded areas, especially riparian forests, i.e. forests near bodies of water. They are also found in moist pastures.

Basically they are wherever there is a ready supply of their staple food: blood.

Unlike fleas, ticks do not jump on to their hosts. They detect heat and carbon dioxide given off by mammals like us then climb blades of grass and other low plants and wait for their meal to walk by.

Once the intended host brushes past, the tick latches on and locates a suitable place to feed.

Like most hematophages (animals which consume blood), ticks are carriers of a number of diseases, notably Lyme disease, which means checking yourself regularly and dressing properly is important.

To avoid ticks, wear closed boots with long trousers tucked into your socks. This might not be the latest trend but it could save you troubles later on.

Also be sure to spray your clothes, possessions and person with insect repellent (repelent pro hmyzu). Anything containing DEET is recommended.

Check yourself regularly while you're in the woods, and definitely before you get home. It usually takes a few hours for a tick to lock itself on.

Key places to check are behind the ears, along the hairline, along the thighs, around the armpits, and under the breasts.

If one of these parasites should affix itself to you, the most recommended form of removal is to grip the tick with a pair of tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull with a slow steady motion.

Do not grip the tick around the abdomen as you risk squeezing any organisms within the parasite into your bloodstream. Nor is it advised to twist the tick.

Infection rates for ticks are quite low. And if a tick is removed within the first 36 hours, there is almost a zero percent chance of disease transmission.

Should you be among the unlucky few, it is possible to treat Lyme disease. As a bacterial pathogen, it can be treated with antibiotics.

Symptoms vary from individual to individual but common ones to look for are:

• A circular rash around the bite area, which appears three-to-30 days after the bite

• Loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face, acute headaches and shooting pains, muscular stiffness, heart palpitations and dizziness, all of which appear sometime later

Another disease carried by ticks is tick-borne encephalitis (TBE). This is a viral infection. Incidences are much rarer than Lyme disease, with one study suggests rates of infection are at less than 1 percent for adult ticks and a little over 1 percent for nymphs (ticks in a juvenile stage).

So, before heading out this summer, perhaps it's a good idea to add a pair of tweezers and some reliable insect repellent to your camping kit.

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