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Ticks in Sweden: How to avoid them and protect yourself

Ticks in Sweden: How to avoid them and protect yourself
You should be especially careful of ticks when spending lots of time in woodland, such as when camping or hiking. Photo: Jan Collsiöö/TT
You know about elk and bears, but in Sweden one of the most dangerous creatures is one of the smallest: the tick.

When and where do you find them?

Ticks can be found all over Sweden in forests, meadows, and long grass, meaning the biggest risk is when you’re out in nature – especially hiking, camping, or berry-picking – but they can also be found in city parks in affected areas.

Ticks are active when the temperature is higher than around 5C, but are most common during the summer months. Tick season is roughly from March to October, with most bites occurring in summer.

What diseases can they cause?

In Sweden, the two main tick-borne diseases are Lyme disease and Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).

Lyme disease (also called borrelia) causes no symptoms in around half of all people who catch it. For others, it can cause skin redness, headaches, and pain, and can attack the nervous system. Symptoms usually appear between two and six weeks after the bite, but can take longer.

TBE is a viral brain infection, which can cause a range of symptoms, usually starting with typical flu-like symptoms and then developing to include nausea, dizziness, and in around a third of cases, severe problems. Symptoms usually appear around a week after the bite, but can take longer. There is no cure, but it can be treated, and there is a vaccination too.

While ticks are found across Sweden, ticks carrying TBE are mostly concentrated in certain areas in the southern half of the country. Data from the Public Health Agency shows where most cases of TBE have been reported; in 2019, a total of 359 cases were reported in Sweden, most of them in central southern Sweden in the area between Stockholm, Södermanland, Uppsala and Östergötland to Västra Götaland and Värmland.


Ticks are tiny, but you should be able to spot them on your skin if you check carefully. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

How can I protect myself?

Lyme disease has no vaccine but can be treated, while TBE cannot be cured but both a vaccine and treatments are available.

Because of the risk of Lyme disease, even if you’re up to date on your TBE vaccines, you should still do what you can to prevent ticks.

If you’ll be spending time in wooded areas with long grass, especially those known to have a high tick presence, take precautions like wearing long sleeved clothing and tucking trousers into socks. Try to avoid brushing against long grasses by walking along the middle of the path where you can.

After returning home from a day out, you should check carefully for ticks and shower shortly after coming inside. This can give you the chance to remove them before they bite, for example if you spot them on your clothes. Putting clothes in a tumble dryer for one hour should kill ticks.


An example of the redness caused by Lyme disease. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/SCANPIX/TT

What if I get bitten?

If you do get a tick, you should remove it safely. The sooner you can do this, the lower the risk that it will be able to infect you with Lyme disease as it can take up to 24 hours for the bacteria to be transferred.

It can be done with a special tick remover (which you should be able to buy at most Swedish pharmacies) or tweezers. The important thing is making sure you remove the whole tick, by grabbing it as close to the skin as possible and pulling slowly. Then, wash and clean the bite, and contact a doctor if you’re worried, especially if you experience symptoms of illness in the weeks after being bitten.


Photo: Staffan Claesson/Scanpix/TT

How can I get a TBE vaccine?

Vaccinations are recommended for those living in areas with TBE-infested ticks, and/or who spend a lot of time out in forests.

You get three doses within the first year (or four if you’re over 50), each one increasing the level of protection, another dose after three years and then will need top-ups every five years. Because you need several doses to be fully protected, it’s recommended that you begin the vaccination programme well ahead of tick season.

You can search for healthcare centres near you through the 1177 service or the website Fästing.nu, or use a private company such as VaccinDirekt, which has both clinics and mobile tick buses, or SveaVaccin.

Swedish vocabulary

tick – (en) fästing

lyme disease – borrelia

tick remover – (en) fästingplockare

vaccine – (en) vaccin

dose – (en) dos


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