In summer many hikers and campers cover their skin to prevent insect bites, especially in the north, where mosquitoes and blackflies are notoriously bloodthirsty in July and August. Most shops sell small bottles of insect repellent.
Mosquitoes are extremely widespread throughout central and southern Finland in late June and July, especially near open water, and in the evening just around dusk. Some people may develop an unpleasant allergic reaction to mosquito bites.
In the autumn hikers may find elk lice in their hair or on their clothing during or after a day in the forest. These small creatures are a little unpleasant, but harmless.
Tick-borne diseases and how to protect yourself from tick bites
Ticks are common in grassy areas, and often attach themselves to walkers, so it could be advisable to wear long trousers and sleeves. Some ticks may carry dangerous diseases, especially in parts of SW Finland, so it's worth seeing a doctor if symptoms develop after a tick bite.
The castor bean tick (Ixodes ricinus) thrives in Finland, particularly in the archipelago and coastal regions, but can also be found in some inland locations. Ticks favour the dense ground vegetation of deciduous forests and wet grasslands. Ticks are small, brownish-black oblong arachnids that require blood meals at all stages of their lifecycle (larvae, nymphs and adults). To feed on blood, ticks attach themselves to their hosts, in most cases small rodents or birds, but also dogs, cats and humans.
Ticks may transmit diseases such as borreliosis caused by the borrelia bacteria and tick-borne encephalitis, TBE, caused by the TBE virus. A small minority of ticks carry diseases and the risk of being infected by a single tick bite is low.
How to protect yourself from tick bites
The best way to avoid being infected is to prevent ticks from having access to your skin. When walking in tick-infested areas such as forests and high grass, wear long trousers with the legs tucked into the stockings.
Ticks are easiest to spot on light-coloured fabrics. After moving around in tick-infested areas, the whole family, including pets, should be checked for ticks. Any specimens attached to the skin must be removed promptly. Tick removal devices, such as special tweezers and hook or key shaped removers, are sold in pharmacies.
It is possible to protect yourself against TBE with a vaccine, but there is no vaccine for borreliosis. Any tick bite on the skin should be observed for a couple of days. If a red circular eczema begins to show around the bite, seek medical advice. Borreliosis can be treated with a course of antibiotics and the majority of those infected recover completely.