Pensions & Health

Small sting – big trouble

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Around 1,600 tick bites were reported to AXA in 2020. Particular care should be taken in the months of May, June, and July: The risk of being bitten by a tick is 1.5 times higher during these months than the average for the rest of the year. The number of wasp and hornet stings reported was even higher last year than it was in 2019. 

As appealing as the spring and summer months are, they also have their drawbacks. One of them can be found lurking on those pleasant strolls through woodlands, while another never fails to pop up when we decide to enjoy an ice-cream in the sun. Ticks, wasps, hornets, and a whole host of other insects can make life difficult in the warmer months of the year. A tick bite can even result in illnesses such as borreliosis and tick-borne encephalitis. The approximately 1,600 tick bites reported to AXA in 2020 generated average costs of CHF 1,500 per case. 

Watch out in the woods

Given the lack of leisure options available and after being cooped up working from home, walking through the woods became a favorite pastime of a greater number of people last year. Loose summer clothing and more bare skin on show than usual translate into easy pickings for hungry ticks. This is compounded by the fact that most people don’t know the correct steps to take if they get bitten. If possible, the tick should be removed with tweezers or a special tick remover. Take care not to squash the tick or try to rip it out of the skin; instead, proceed slowly and carefully until you see that it’s out. Afterwards, you need to check that there are no changes to the area around the bite and consult a doctor in good time if you see any redness or a rash. 

How to protect yourself against tick bites

  • Wear light-colored, long clothing.
  • If possible, tuck your trousers into your socks and your shirt or t-shirt into your trousers. 
  • Spray any bare skin with insect repellent before you go into the woods.
  • When back home, check yourself carefully for ticks. If you find one, remove it immediately using the correct procedure.
  • Avoid brushwood and undergrowth.

Be careful when enjoying drinks and snacks outdoors

With 860 cases reported, last year AXA recorded almost twice as many insect bites and stings as in 2019 (around 470 cases). July and August are the months when wasps and hornets tend to sting most. Fortunately, such stings result in nothing more than a little soreness for most people, and generate average insurance costs of approximately CHF 900. In the event of an allergic reaction, however, the consequences can be much more dramatic, and treatment costs significantly higher. The symptoms range from itching and rashes to serious swelling, which in the most severe cases lead to breathing difficulties or sudden cardiovascular collapse. Anaphylaxis – allergic shock – can even be fatal. Paying attention to a few safety tips, however, will ensure that you can enjoy your next drinks or barbecue evening in your garden without worrying about being stung. 

How to guard against wasp and hornet stings

  • Avoid abrupt, sudden movements 
  • Wasps in particular are attracted by beer and sweet food and beverages; make sure you use covers and lids wherever you can. 
  • Avoid strong perfumes and fragrances.
  • Report wasp nests near your property to the fire service or police.  
  • Important information for people who are allergic: Always have an emergency kit with antihistamines, cortisone, and possibly a pre-filled adrenaline syringe to hand. 

Insect stings qualify as accidents

In Switzerland, 3.5 percent of the population is allergic to insect venom. Depending on how things develop, treatment for an insect sting or tick bite can cost anything between a few hundred Swiss francs and seven-digit sums. For people in employment, stings or bites are generally covered by mandatory accident insurance. Fortunately, no-one has to worry about the costs generated by a tick bite, for example. Because from the insurance perspective, they – like insect stings – are regarded as accidents.

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