Tick season in Switzerland: What expats need to know

Tick season in Switzerland: What expats need to know

As the weather in Switzerland improves and the school holidays beckon, the start of spring and summer means the emergence of something else: tick season in Switzerland has begun. Ticks are common throughout Switzerland, and despite their small size, they can transmit harmful diseases. Here’s where you can find ticks in Switzerland and how you can protect yourself.

Where can you find ticks in Switzerland?

Along with their unsightly appearance, ticks have the potential to transmit deadly diseases to hikers and people who work outside. Ticks awake from their hibernation as the warm weather starts, making tick bites most common between March and when the weather cools in October and November.

Ticks are found throughout Switzerland, from St. Gallen in the east to Geneva in the west. Recently, ticks have also been discovered above 1.500 metres above sea level, meaning a tick encounter in the Swiss mountains is becoming more likely. Bear in mind that ticks are not just found in forests, but in fields, meadows, gardens and cities.

What diseases do ticks carry?

Climate change has meant that ticks have spread to more and more parts of Switzerland, with the vice-president of the League for Ticks in Switzerland warning that the number of tick bites and reports of Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) have increased dramatically over the last five years.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that typically causes flu-like symptoms and a target-shaped rash around the tick bite, but it is usually easy to treat if caught early. If you have the following symptoms in the three weeks after a tick bite, you should seek medical attention:

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

Lyme disease is prevalent among all tick populations in Switzerland, with between 6.000 and 12.000 cases reported in the alpine nation every year, according to the Federal Office for Public Health (FOPH). The Zurich University of Applied Sciences has also created an app for mobile phones called Zecke, which shows you where tick bites have been recorded.

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) has spread rapidly among tick populations in Switzerland in recent years. According to the FOPH, as of 2024, all parts of the country apart from Canton Geneva and Ticino are now considered TBE risk areas. The disease typically leads to flu-like symptoms, but in rare cases can result in a more serious infection, manifesting itself as meningitis.

Does Switzerland recommend a vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis?

The FOPH recommends that every person who lives in a tick-borne encephalitis risk area be vaccinated against the disease. This is recommended for those six years old and older, and the vaccination(s) can be administered by a doctor or even a local pharmacy in some cases. If you are unsure whether you've received the vaccination or not, please contact your GP.

How to protect yourself against ticks in Switzerland

Alongside getting vaccinated, the best way to protect yourself against these diseases in Switzerland is to avoid getting bitten. Ticks prefer warm and wet weather, so be on the lookout for them if you are in the countryside during the summer, especially if it has rained recently. Long grass, meadows, forests and verges are favourite spots for ticks, who lie in wait for passing humans and animals.

Wearing long-sleeved shirts and trousers when walking in tall grass and wearing insect repellent can prevent tick bites. When you get back home, always check to see if any ticks have bitten you, your pets or your family.

How to remove a tick

If you find a tick has bitten you, don’t panic! So long as you remove the critter carefully, there shouldn't be a problem. The best thing to do is to use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and apply steady upward pressure until the tick is removed, then wash the bite area thoroughly and dispose of the tick without crushing it.

Never try to crush a tick with your fingers or scratch the tick off, as this may lead to excess parts of the tick being stuck in the skin. If you start to develop a rash or fever within three weeks of removing the tick, see your doctor.

Ticks shouldn't spoil exploring the Swiss countryside

Of course, these tiny critters shouldn’t dissuade you from exploring and having fun in the great outdoors - it's just good information to keep in mind while enjoying the Swiss wilderness. 

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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SZ74 13:41 | 30 June 2022

My dog almost died from a tick that transmitted a bacteria which began destroying her white blood cells, and she had to be admitted to the University hospital in Bern for life saving treatment. Her symptoms were lethargy, no appetite and wobbly legs while standing/walking. Luckily the local vet opened her clinic in the middle of the night for us and started immediate antibiotic treatment but she still deteriorated incredibly quickly before we got her to Bern. Since then I always check for ticks after a forest or grass walk and bought tick removers and use repellents from the Swiss online store