Over the years, ticks seem to be more and more present in the countryside and woodlands. Carriers of bacteria capable of transmitting certain diseases to humans, including Lyme disease, they pose a real threat to runners who follow routes in the natural environment. In this period conducive to ticks, some precautions should be taken when running.
Summer is here. What a pleasure to take advantage of the long days to go for a run in the forest, to take the small paths in the heart of a forest, protected from the hot weather and the rays of the sun by a natural parasol made up of the treetops. The vision is idyllic. However, at the bend of a route, when the path becomes narrower and tall grass or bushes come to caress the calves, thighs or any other part of the body, the enemy may be there. Hanging on a tall grass, the tick is there, ready to pounce on the first piece of skin that grazes it. And be careful not to be fooled by appearances.
Despite its small size of only 3 to 11 mm, the tick can be formidable for the runner, or the walker.
Nested in the mite family, ticks lie in wait for their “prey”, mainly between late spring and early autumn, in wooded and humid areas, most often at altitudes below 1500 m. And when a potential “host” presents itself, they then cling to the body, preferably in humid and warm areas (armpits, crotch, behind the knees or ears), then plunge their heads into the skin and start to suck. the blood.
An incubation period of up to 30 days
If the tick was satisfied with a few grams of blood sucked and a small itch, its harmfulness would be limited. Unfortunately, it can be much more dangerous.
In some cases, it is indeed a carrier of bacteria that are dangerous for humans. Borrelia is the best known of these bacteria because it causes Lyme disease, a disease characterized by headache, muscle pain, fever, chills, general weakness and sometimes even cardiovascular complications.
The appearance of erythema migrans, a large, red, round patch at least 2 inches in diameter, where the tick has taken up residence, is often the most visible sign of infection. He must as quickly as possible initiate a medical consultation.
Other bacteria transmissible by ticks can cause several diseases in humans (tick-borne encephalitis, human granulocytic anaplasmosis, tularemia, Q fever, rickettsiosis).
Problem: the incubation period is very variable and can extend between 3 and 30 days after the bite, making the diagnosis more complicated. It is not always easy to make the connection between a big fatigue and a bite that we may have attributed to an insect or that, probably, we did not even feel.
If, according to the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAE), the risk of being affected by Lyme disease after a tick bite is “only” 6% , the danger exists and affects several thousand people per year.
The increase in cases in France in recent years (104 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 2018 against 69 per 100,000 in 2017, according to the Ministry of Solidarity and Health) even triggered, in 2016, a “national prevention plan and the fight against Lyme disease and tick-borne diseases ”.
Widespread throughout France
If the tick is implanted throughout France, according to several studies, in particular those carried out by INRAE through its Citique program (an application on the telephone makes it possible to report tick bites and thus to establish a map of risk zones), it is more present in Alsace, Lorraine, Île-de-France, Lower Normandy, Aquitaine, Rhône-Alpes and Midi-Pyrénées.
In recent years, the Var (Massif des Maures) and the Bouches-du-Rhône have also seen the Hyalomma marginatum tick, recognizable by its striped legs, grow in areas of scrubland or dry hills.
Safe for animals, it can in certain (rare) cases transmit Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (potentially fatal) to humans. While no case has yet been diagnosed in France, this variety of ticks has already claimed victims in Spain and Turkey and is now placed under close surveillance.
Ticks are also present in quantity in Quebec!
The right reflexes
Before going for a run in an area potentially inhabited by “wood lice”, it is advisable to apply a repellent to your skin. The ideal would be to cover yourself sufficiently to limit the areas of skin “offered” and to avoid straying from marked trails.
But in summer, it is difficult for a runner to resist the temptation to go out and explore nature. On return, it is therefore very important to inspect the whole body to ensure that no ticks have come to cling.
If this is the case, then it should be removed as quickly as possible to limit the risk of infection. Small special tweezers are sold in pharmacies and allow you to catch the tick as close to the skin as possible. Tweezers can also do the trick.
Be careful not to shoot all at once, the head might stick in the skin. Two or three small rotations remove the whole body. Once the tick has been removed, use an antiseptic to disinfect the wound (do not use alcohol or ether before removing it, otherwise the tick may regurgitate and therefore increase the possibilities of infection) .
In the event of a bite, special attention is needed in the following weeks. Any unusual tiredness, weakness, the appearance of body aches for no particular reason and, of course, the appearance of erythema should be taken seriously and reported to a doctor.
Treatment with antibiotics makes it possible to fight the disease very effectively. But the later it is diagnosed, the more difficult it will be to fight and the greater the risk of complications (heart problems, severe arthritis, paralysis of the limbs, facial nerves, etc.) will be important.
No question of shying away from the pleasure of running in the middle of nature, but a minimum of precautions and vigilance can avoid spoiling the summer.