Safe Hiking in Nature – Europe – What to do when being bitten by insects

I like to go hiking in nature and of course I like to do so in a safe way. I was walking in nature a while back and I said a little proudly to my walking buddy that I actually never suffer from irritation from plants, mosquitoes or a tick 🙂

This was during our 3 day Lee Trail in Luxembourg. My hiking buddy Anto van We12Travel suffered quite a lot from all kinds of plants along the path and I had a tick on me twice which I saw in time and wiped off. For her, safe walking in nature is much more a matter of preparation and taking all kinds of situations into account.

But…less than 2 weeks later, just during my work, on surveillance, I felt irritation above my left ear.

I was scratching and feeling it while driving our surveillance car. At one point I got the suspicion that I had a tick on that spot. I got it halfway off my skin… One side was stuck… I turned around in such a way that my colleague could inspect my ear.

He confirmed my suspicion…. I had a tick!

Hydrate in summer
During the warm weather you should of course drink enough water!
I briefly consulted with my colleague and we decided to drive to the emergency room. Not sure if we had the right tools at the station. I was glad that they could help me quickly and remove the tick quickly. Because I wasn’t sure how long he had been there we decided to take two tablets of antibiotics.
I had been sitting on the ground outside, the day before, when we had a call to go to a mentally unstable person. This was in an environment with lots of grass, flowers and trees. It had taken almost 2 hours before the psycholance (An ambulance for the mental sick) was there and because of the heat, it was then over 30 degrees I had stood and sat in the shade.

Safe Hiking in Nature


What to do when being bitten by insects

  • A tick bite… What to do?

Now, over a month later, there’s no sign that I’ve been bitten there. The first days it remained thick and irritated but this subsided after 4 to 5 days. It was very irritated when I was scratching and I read that it gives off a little poison out of defense…. And that poison can also have the wrong substances like lyme in it and infect you. For that reason it is very important that you remove the tick with a tick pen without irritating it.
  • When is the tick active?

Period that the tick is active can actually be the whole year through but this has certainly to do with the temperature. In the month of June most tick bites are registered so around spring and summer there are the most active tick bites.
  • Is every tick infected with Lyme?

By no means every tick is infected with the Borrelia bacteria. It’s about 20% of all ticks that are infected, so that’s 1 in 5. It’s not that this percentage applies everywhere… In one area a lot of infected ticks have been found and in other areas almost none. What this is related to is not quite clear yet.


  • Can other diseases be transmitted by the tick?

Besides Lyme disease there are of course other pathogens that can be present in the ticks. This percentage is higher, about 30% of the ticks have a pathogen in them such as bacteria, a parasite or a virus. So it is always important to keep a close eye on how you react to a tick bite. They can cause fever and flu-like symptoms.

  • How do you get a tick bite?

The tick does not drop as you often hear, but crawls from grasses or bushes over to humans or animals. They crawl much faster and further than you would think. The only time the tick drops is when it is full of blood 🙂

Safe Hiking in Nature - What to do when being bitten by insects - Europe


  • How do you remove a tick?

If you find a tick on your body, don’t scratch and pull it like I did. I didn’t see what it was and didn’t realize until later. If you see the tick go look for a so called drawing pincer, tick remover or if you don’t have one with pointed tweezers.

Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible, then grab it by the head, and slowly pull the tick out. Don’t do this too fast because then you have a chance that something will break off. In itself this is not dangerous, just like a splinter it will come out by itself.

If you remove a tick before it has been there for 24 hours, the chance of infection is small. Still, you have to take into account that it can be wrong.

Write down for yourself where and when you have been bitten so that you remember this well and if there are still symptoms of illness you know when and you can count back.
  • Keep an eye on the tick bite for a while
At first, keep an eye on the wound from where the tick bit you for any discoloration. I read that it can still appear up to 3 months after a tick bite. A discoloration of the skin can occur as well as muscle and joint pain.
Check this site for information about ticks

Safe Hiking in nature


What to do when being bitten by insects

Besides these nasty little animals, the ticks,
there are, of course, some other insects active lately.

For Safe Hiking in nature it is always good to be informed. In what season is which insect active and so you can bring some prevention tools to help you if something comes on your path. In recent years we have also had more and more problems with the oak processionary moth or caterpillar. Safe hiking in nature in that period of time and near those oaktrees is difficult!
  • The Oak Processionary Caterpillar

This oak processionary caterpillar has been present in large numbers in recent years. The period that we suffer most from it can be as early as the beginning of April (spring) and continue until the end of July (summer). Due to global warming, I know Fake News… but yet it’s a fact. Because of this, this caterpillar is also present in the Netherlands and can survive and multiply excessively it seems. The number of caterpillars in the summer of this year, 2019, has tripled compared to previous years.

This oak processionary caterpillar can cause a lot of irritation.

I’ve experienced it myself because during my work I sometimes stand on the street and can’t always stay away from under the oak trees they’re in. The irritation spots look like light burns, they are slightly red and thickened.


  • Be carefull for your pet

It can even be deadly to animals. A cat or dog licks itself off and if the fur contains a lot of burn hairs of the processionary caterpillar, its tongue can die. This can be fatal for the animal.

Cats or other animals can die from oak procession Caterpillar

In many places in the Netherlands there are warnings against the oak processionary caterpillar.

Around the oak trees in which they are located you often see the red and white ribbons with the text Look out Oak Processionary Caterpillar. That is what they do in The Netherlands, don’t know if they will do that in your country too? It is also often the case that the municipality, when a nest of the oak processionary caterpillar is reported within a suburb (neighbourhood), has the nest professionally removed.


  • Counteract the effects of the oak processionary caterpillar

What is a very effective way to reduce the symptoms in the beginning and prevent worse is to clean the areas with tape or tape. Stick the tape on and pull it off again. This way you can remove the stinging hairs that cause irritation to or from the skin.

What also seems to be a solution is to put the hairdryer on it. Blow over it as hot as possible and then the hairs of the oak processionary caterpillar will burn away!

In addition, there are several ointments on the market. Most of them contain menthol and these cool the area down. This makes the itching a lot less. After this it’s just waiting for it to stop. Unfortunately, it can continue to itch for about 2 to 3 days.

Fortunately, there is generally no lasting reaction or complaints for humans.

Sometimes the complaints can be worse than described above, such as complaints that resemble a cold or even a thickening of lips or swollen eyes. In that case it is certainly advisable to contact your family doctor. You can get an inflammation that, depending on where it is located, can cause unpleasant consequences.

Safe Hiking in nature


  • Mosquitoes and other insects such as wasps / hornets.

There are all kinds of anti-mosquito or anti-insect sprays. One just helps better and is more effective than the other. This also depends on the person I sometimes feel. As if your own body smell mixes in and it strengthens or weakens.

When I’m stung… Which fortunately doesn’t happen very often, I try not to scratch. This makes the irritation bigger, the place bigger and it takes longer before it fades.

I always have tiger balm with me or other oil or ointment that smells strong and has a soothing effect. With me, the tiger balm helps against the itching.

What exactly is something that helps with you?

Safe Hiking in Nature

What to do when bitten by Insects
All collected from different countries where I have been from The Gambia, Sumatra, Vietnam and the Tea Tree here from the Netherlands.

Grandma Knows Best

My grandmother used to tell me that if you bruise the Plaintain plant and put its juice on a mosquito bite, it stops itching. This is especially effective for the nettle. I have to say that I still do this a lot, especially because it grows over between the paving stones and is therefore easy to find.


  • Citronella

I used to use citronella a lot. You probably know it, from those candles that burn outside on the terrace in the summer evening. In the end it has never been proven that it helps, that it keeps the mosquitoes at bay. Most mosquitoes stay away for a while and then they seem accustomed to the smell and come anyway.

  • Bees / Wasps / Hornets

These creatures are slightly larger and therefore the irritation spot is also slightly larger and it often takes a little longer before it is over.

Once I was stung by a bee. I was looking at a beehive that was placed in the forest. When I stepped off the path to take a picture. I immediately saw that a number of bees came flying towards me. Scared the hell out of me! I was at least 10 meters away from those hives. Of course I ran and knocked off some of them. One managed to sting me on my cheekbone anyway.

Luckily there was a family who walked the same path and saw me running in panic… (I really wonder what that looked like – slapstick images I see in front of me) When the threat was over I ran to them. It turned out the sting was still in my cheekbone and the father pulled it out for me.

I suffered from this hump for quite a long time and my cheekbone felt painful when I happened to lean on it.

Safe Hiking in Nature
I suspecta hornet stung me in my neck on my walk in Norway…

The best thing you can do against the itching of this stitch is to cool it with ice and apply an itch repellent lotion or ointment.

If you keep scratching a spot, the substance inside continues to irritate the spot and spread. This only exacerbates the symptoms. It itches and so you want to scratch and that is exactly what you should not do!
In Norway the other day I was plagued by the hornet. If I stood still for a moment in the shade, it was there and stung me. The spots I had on my legs were easy to do but at one point I had one in my neck, just below my ear, it irritated me for a week and was quite thick.

I had tiger balm with me and put it on the spot every night.

  • Leeches

I’m almost afraid to say I’ve never had these in or on my body… Then I’ll probably find a leech on my body the next trip 🙂

When I went into the jungle on Sumatra for a few days to see the Orangutan, the Dutch couple both had a leech on them in turns.

Safe Hiking in Nature
Not charming but essential in some parts of the world for safe hiking in nature!

Safe Hiking in Nature of India

Also in India I had to wear high, special socks several times to keep out leeches. Also in Thailand, Khao Yai, they advise this. There we saw how a leech disappeared through the sneaker of a fellow traveler in her shoe. You know that gauze which is often on the front / top of the sneaker. I never expected a leech to get through that…

Luckily, she was also wearing one of those anti-leech socks. Such a sock is made of very tightly woven fabric or also of polyester/nylon. The leech then either doesn’t get a grip on the sock or just can’t get through because the sock is so tightly woven.

Which is nice to know that a leech doesn’t have any diseases and doesn’t actually cause any pain. What can happen is that the wound that is left behind eventually ignites. So you have to keep it clean and well cared for. The wound is ususally gone after a week.

What you should certainly not do is burn the leech with a cigarette while it is still attached to your body. The leech will release quickly…it will… But it can happen that he vomits out his stomach contents, which then gets into your body. There could be all kinds of bacteria in here, causing inflammation.

Did you know there are leeches in the Netherlands? They don’t like people, so it’s a bit unknown. They live in fresh water and there are no less than 30 different species in the Netherlands!

Safe Hiking in Nature

  • Snakes


There are also snakes in the Netherlands. Most of them are fortunately non-toxic and in general you won’t get close to them. In the Engbertsdijksvenen I took a nice walk a couple of times and went looking for the viper with my nephews.

Good to know that the viper is poisonous. It is also the only poisonous snake in Belgium and the Netherlands. That’s also good to know because you don’t have to watch out for other snakes!

Check out which poisonous snakes are present in your surrounding on the internet!!

Safe Hiking in Nature - viper

What if you got too close, both of you didn’t pay attention and kicked oid? What do you do then?

Did you know that only 220 viper bites have been reported in the Netherlands since 1885?

It’s not very common, but you have to watch out for it. If you are allergic to snake venom it can cause very serious symptoms. The complaints range from swelling, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. It is always necessary to consult your doctor immediately.


Did you know it’s okay to lick a wound?

It’s always good to lick the place clean when you’re in nature. So if you’re not well prepared because you don’t have anything with you use your saliva. Did you know that saliva is a great alternative?

Because it contains enzymes or also called active proteins (also called histanine). They provide a faster blood vessel formation which in turn ensures a faster healing. It is not so much disinfecting what it is good for, but for recovery!

Did you find these tips useful?
Then keep them or share them for others!

Safe Hiking in Nature!

I hope you will continue to walk confidently in nature because there is of course nothing finer than to relax this way after a week of hard work!

Looking for another nice walk? Take a look at this one!

Pilgrim Path St. Olavsleden – Norway

Hiking in Germany – The hermannshoehen Hiking Trail

Poon Hill Trek – Nepal

Hiking the N70 – Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Or do you want to do a real pilgrimage in Spain?

First 200K of the Camino Frances – Spain


I hope you love this world as much as I do!