Spring: tick season and health risks

Spring: tick season and health risks

With spring comes not only the warmer season, but also an increased risk of tick bites and their risk to our health. Read more about ticks and how to protect yourself.

What are ticks?

Ticks are part of the arachnid family and go through multiple stages of development from nymph to adult. At all stages, they feed on blood from their hosts.

What kinds of ticks are found in central Europe?

There are various tick species in central Europe, which differ in their preferred habitat and chosen victims.

The most prevalent tick species in central Europe is the castor bean tick (Ixodes ricinus). This species is responsible for most tick bites in humans and can transmit illnesses like Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).

Additionally, immigrant tick species are now also present in central Europe, include the ornate dog tick (Dermacentor reticulatus), the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), and the hard-bodied, large tropical ticks (Hyalomna ticks). More information on these tick species can be found in the appendix.

Due to global warming, the spread of immigrant tick species is expected to increase in the coming years. Currently, the native castor bean tick is the most prevalent in our lives, thus, the remainder of this article will focus on this species.

When are tick bites most likely to happen?

Tick bites can occur throughout the year, but the risk is highest during spring and fall when temperatures are moderate. In summer, when it's hot and dry, or in winter with freezing temperatures, the risk decreases.

Where do ticks live?

The castor bean tick is commonly found in grassy and wooded areas. This makes walking through forest undergrowth or tall grass paths particularly risky. Ticks can also be present in urban parks, gardens, and even your home garden.

Contrary to popular belief, ticks don't drop from trees. Most tick species are blind and are attracted to the warmth of their hosts, often being brushed off vegetation. Tropical ticks, however, can see and actively pursue their prey, making them an exception.

Tips for preventing tick bites

You can significantly reduce your risk of tick bites and protect yourself by staying cautious and informed. Here are some effective measures:

  • Stick to clearly marked paths when walking in rural areas, avoiding contact with vegetation where ticks may lurk.
  • Consider wearing long clothing to create a barrier that makes it harder for ticks to reach your skin.
  • Use tick repellents like sprays or natural products such as coconut oil.
  • Regularly check your clothes and skin while outdoors to promptly remove any ticks.
  • When returning indoors, undress outside and carefully inspect your clothing.
  • Conduct thorough checks on yourself, others, and pets after outdoor activities, focusing on areas like armpits, behind ears, knees, navel, and genital region.
  • Shower after being outdoors to wash away any unattached ticks.

Coconut oil against ticks

Scientific studies have demonstrated that virgin coconut oil is more effective at repelling biting insects and ticks, compared to conventional repellents like DEET (1). Furthermore, it is safe for both health and the environment.

This tick-repelling effect is attributed to the presence of lauric acid in coconut oil. A study by FU Berlin utilized a 10% lauric acid solution, noting that between 81 and 100% of ticks left the treated surface. This protection lasted approximately 8 hours, with similar efficacy observed in human volunteers (2).

High-quality coconut oil, with its up to 60% lauric acid content, is a suitable natural tick repellent. It can be applied to lower legs or other exposed areas before outdoor activities. Additionally, coconut oil is popular in veterinary medicine and can be safely used on dogs and cats. For cats, applying it to the back of the neck is recommended.

How do you remove a tick correctly?

Remove any tick as soon as you have found it. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Slowly and steadily pull the tick straight out without twisting or jerking it.

This technique minimizes the risk of squeezing the tick and potentially introducing more pathogens or toxins into the body. It also helps prevent the tick's mouthparts from breaking off and remaining embedded in the skin.

What diseases can ticks transmit?

The most common diseases transmitted by ticks in Germany are Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).

Lyme disease - a serious illness

Lyme disease or Lyme borreliosis is a bacterial infectious disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.

Depending on the region, up to a third of ticks in Germany are infected with Borrelia. However, not every bite from an infected tick automatically leads to Lyme disease. This is because the transmission of borrelia usually only begins after 1 to 2 days. The earlier a tick is removed, the lower the risk of a Borrelia infection (3).

One of the most common symptoms at the beginning of the infection is a spreading rash at the site of the tick bite, which develops in the first 3 to 30 days after the bite. This is also known as migratory rash. However, this rash does not occur in all cases (3).

Other symptoms include flu-like symptoms like fever, headaches, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue. Muscle and joint pain can also occur. However, some infections are asymptomatic, making diagnosis challenging (3).

The borrelia persist permanently in the body and late forms of Lyme disease can occur even months or years after the tick bite.

Late forms include neuroborreliosis, in which the borrelia infect the nervous system and can cause severe pain, paralysis, visual and hearing impairment or numbness. Chronic forms also include Lyme arthritis, which is associated with chronic, intermittent joint inflammation and often affects the knee joints, and chronic skin inflammation, is also possible (3).

TBE - a serious form of meningitis

Tick-borne encephalitis is caused by the TBE virus, and the prevalence of infected ticks varies widely by region.

Symptoms typically manifest 7 to 14 days after infection and may resemble flu symptoms, including fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle pain. In severe cases, there can be inflammation of the meninges and brain, resulting in neurological symptoms like confusion, loss of consciousness, and paralysis. These symptoms may persist for several months (4).

Micronutrients for Lyme disease and TBE

Several essential nutrients can significantly aid the body in dealing with conditions like Lyme disease and TBE. Here are three specific supplements that offer support for the immune and nervous system:

  • Vitamin B Complex: B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12, B6, and niacin, play crucial roles in maintaining normal immune and nervous system function. Our Vitamin B Complex supplement combines all eight B vitamins in optimal dosages and a synergistic blend.
  • DHA plus EPA: Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA are vital for cell membrane structure and possess potent anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Vitamin D Complex: Vitamin D strengthens the immune system and supports the body in its defense against infections. Our Vitamin D Complex also includes two natural forms of vitamin C, further enhancing immune support.


  1. Zhu JJ, Cermak SC, Kenar JA, et al. Better than DEET Repellent Compounds Derived from Coconut Oil. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):14053. Published 2018 Sep 19.
  2. Schwantes U, Dautel H, Jung G. Prevention of infectious tick-borne diseases in humans: Comparative studies of the repellency of different dodecanoic acid-formulations against Ixodes ricinus ticks (Acari: Ixodidae). Parasit Vectors. 2008;1(1):8. Published 2008 Apr 8.
  3. Lyme-Borreliose. Robert-Koch-Institut [Internet]. [aufgerufen am: 30.04.2024].
  4. FSME. Robert-Koch-Institut [Internet]. [aufgerufen am: 30.04.2024].


The primary tick species in central Europe are as follows:

Castor bean tick: The castor bean tick (Ixodes ricinus) is the most common tick species in Germany and is responsible for the majority of tick bites in humans. It can transmit various diseases, including Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).

Dermacentor ticks: This group includes the ornate dog tick (Dermacentor reticulatus) and the sheep tick (Dermacentor marginatus). Although these ticks rarely infest humans, alluvial ticks are vectors for babesiosis in dogs, a severe and potentially fatal disease if untreated.

Brown dog tick: Primarily affecting dogs, the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) transmits pathogens for ehrlichiosis and babesiosis. In rare instances, it can infest humans and lead to Mediterranean spotted fever. Brown dog ticks are known to thrive indoors and are already widespread in southern Europe, with occasional findings in Germany.

Relict tick: The relict tick (Haemaphysalis concinna) is still rare in Germany. However, it is a possible vector of TBE.

Hyalomma Ticks: Also known as tropical or giant ticks, Hyalomma ticks are typically found in more southern regions but can occasionally be found in Germany. They are associated with diseases such as Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, causing severe bleeding. While no cases have been reported in Germany, occurrences have been documented in southern European countries like Portugal, Spain, and southern France.


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