Ticks in Switzerland: What You Need to Know

ticks switzerland

Switzerland consistently earns high liveability scores in many areas from a stable economy and politics to fresh clean air and water. However, like any other country, pests live right along with the people. For Switzerland, one of the biggest pest problems is ticks.

You don’t have to let these tiny insects spoil your time in Switzerland, but you do need to be aware. Kickstart your knowledge of Switzerland’s tick problem with the following information.

Where Are Ticks Found in Switzerland?

tick leaf
Tick on a leaf

Ticks can be found almost everywhere in Switzerland’s beautiful meadows, fields, gardens, and charming towns and cities. According to the Federal Office of Public Health, the entire Alpine nation is considered at risk except for the cantons of Ticino and Geneva.

Fortunately, ticks are rare at altitudes above 1,500 meters which is good news for hikers and other outdoor adventure seekers. But you can expect to encounter ticks in the Central Plateau’s forests at the edges, in the undergrowth, on forest clearings, in parks, near rivers, and campgrounds at lower altitudes.

On our bodies, they tend to like the warm moist areas where the skin is thinner such as behind the ears, around the neck, the ears, on the inner thighs, or behind the knees.

When Is The Tick Season in Switzerland?

Ticks live in Switzerland the year round and are the most active from late March through November. Tick season can vary depending from place to place. They like warm, humid weather and come out of their dormancy when the temperatures rise and stay above freezing.

Just as the schools close for the summer and everyone everywhere is in high gear for outdoor activities, tick season is at its peak.

Diseases Transmitted by Ticks in Switzerland

tick skin person
Tick on a skin

Despite its tiny size, ticks may carry some very dangerous diseases. Lyme,  tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), and tularaemia are the most common and problematic, but researchers at Zurich University continue to identify other tick-borne illnesses. Anyone living or spending time in Switzerland should be aware of the symptoms of the diseases that ticks carry. 

Lyme Disease

Switzerland’s most common tick-borne illness, Lyme disease is caused by bacteria. An expanding rash is one of the most frequently seen symptoms of Lyme disease. The rash usually appears between 1 to 30 days after the initial bite. Called erythema migrans, the rash is target-shaped and begins near the bite.

The FOPH reports that between 6,000 and 10,000 causes of Lyme disease are reported in Switzerland each year. Zeck is a mobile phone app created by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences that shows where tick bites have been recorded.

Although it’s a serious disease, Lyme is easily treated if the victim seeks medical attention right away. Other symptoms to look for include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Joint pain or headache

Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE)

Tick-borne encephalitis or TBE is also known as meningitis, an inflammation of the brain and the surrounding lining. Ticks can transmit the virus to humans through its bite. TBE is a serious disease that can’t be treated with antibiotics. It can cause swelling of the brain and/or spinal cord, sensory disturbances, and confusion. It may even lead to death. Fortunately, it can be prevented by vaccination.

TBE isn’t as widespread as Lyme disease and instead occurs in a few certain areas. The most cases have been reported in the cantons of Schaffhausen, Bern, Zurich, and Graubünden.

The main symptoms are flu-like, but most people who become infected don’t feel sick at first. When symptoms do occur, they include:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Body aches

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Also known as rabbit fever, Tularaemia is caused by bacteria. The bacteria is spread by a tick bite in approximately half of all cases of Tularemia in Switzerland. The disease is fairly rare but cases have increased in recent years. Signs and symptoms vary and range from flu-like to skin ulcers.

The symptoms of Tularemia depend on where the bacteria enter the body. They can range from mild to life-threatening. All forms will have a fever as high as 104 degrees F. This is a serious illness for which there is no preventative vaccination, but it is treatable with antibiotics

How to Keep Yourself Safe From Tick Bites

tick flower
Tick on a flower

It’s important to take precautions to protect yourself from tick bites particularly in high-risk areas during “tick season.” While engaging in outdoor activities, you should cover your entire body with clothing. Spray an anti-tick insecticide on your shoes. Stay on wide paths and in clearings and try to avoid contact with grass and shrubs.

When you get back indoors, remove your shoes and clothing and check them thoroughly for ticks. They will be easier to spot if you wear light-colored clothing.

Children are especially vulnerable since they often play down close to the ground. Check their heads and clothing often for ticks. If you have cats and/or dogs, use an anti-tick product and check them often as well.

What to Do If You’ve Been Bitten by Ticks

Oddly, ticks release a sort of anesthetic substance when they bite, so the bite may not itch or hurt. This allows the tick to continue sucking blood. Once they have their fill, the tick falls off. Often all that’s left behind is a dark spot.

When you see a tick on yourself, your children, or pets, use a pair of tweezers to remove it. You can find special tick tweezers at some pharmacies. Grab it as close to the skin as possible and pull taking care not to crush the tick. Slowly twist the tweezers and pull. Write down the date and disinfect the bite area.

See your doctor if the head is stuck and gets infected, a circular rash appears a few days later, or if you experience any symptoms within 30 days.

Tick Vaccinations in Switzerland

tick toxic
Tick on a human skin

FOPH recommends that all adults and children over the age of 6 who live in risk areas get vaccinated against tick-borne illnesses. Risk areas include everywhere except the cantons of Ticino and Geneva. The vaccination is available at doctors’ offices and select pharmacies. The cost is covered by compulsory health insurance. Employers of people who have exposure at work must pay for the vaccination.

Winter is the best time to get the vaccination, but it’s available all year. To be fully immunized, you must get three doses. The first two are administered one month apart. The third is given after 5 to 12 months and ensures protection for 10 years. After that, you will need a booster.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the incidence of Lyme disease in Switzerland?

There are about 6,000 to 12,000 estimated cases of Lyme disease in Switzerland each year.

How common is Tick-Borne Encephalitis in Switzerland?

Tick-borne encephalitis is now as common in Switzerland as it is in Latvia,  Estonia, Czechia, Slovenia, and Sweden and is higher than what is seen in other parts of the world.

Are there ticks in Interlaken?

Ticks are found everywhere in Switzerland except at altitudes above 1,500 meters.

Do you get ticks in the Alps?

You can get ticks in the Alps if you are at 1,500 meters or below.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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