Warm temperatures returning to Canada has seen ticks come crawling back into the news. The creepy critters carry the potential for spreading Lyme disease, a serious bacterial infection that can have severe symptoms if not caught early.
The number of reported Lyme disease cases in Canada between 2009-2016 rose from 144 to 992, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Although not all ticks carry the nasty infection, their population and areas they are found in are growing.
Ticks are tiny creatures and their bites are usually painless, meaning you may not even know if you have been bitten. This makes it even more important to remain vigilant while spending time outdoors and keeping an eye out for symptoms of Lyme disease.
Reduce your chance of being bitten
The CCOHS has provided some tips for avoiding being bitten if you venture into forests or overgrown areas this summer.
- Wear protective clothing to prevent ticks from attaching to your skin. Wear closed toed shoes, long sleeve shirts that fit tightly around the wrist, and long-legged pants tucked into your socks or boots.
- If possible, avoid contact with low bushes and long grasses. For example, if hiking or walking, walk in the centre of the trail.
- Wear light-coloured clothes to make spotting ticks easier.
- Use insect repellents containing DEET or Icaridin on your skin and clothing — always read and follow label directions.
- Wash clothes promptly and put them in the dryer with heat to help kill any ticks that may remain.
- Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to wash away loose ticks.
- Do daily “full body” checks for ticks on yourself, your children and pets.
What to do if a black-legged tick bites you
What to do if you’re bitten
- Use clean tweezers, grasp the head as close to the skin as possible and pull slowly straight out.
- Afterwards, wash the bite site with soap and water or disinfect with alcohol hand sanitizer.
- If mouthparts break off, remove them with tweezers or, if you are unable to remove them easily, leave them alone and let the skin heal.
- If possible, save the tick that bit you in a clean container or plastic bag and record the date you were bit. Watch out for signs and symptoms of Lyme disease in the subsequent weeks. If you feel unwell, contact your health care provider right away. If you are diagnosed in the later stages of the disease, you may require a longer course of antibiotics and experience symptoms that continue more than 6 months after treatment. If you have saved the tick, bring it to your medical appointment as it may help the doctor.