If you’re thinking about getting outdoors now that spring weather is approaching, keep an eye out for unwanted visitors. If you’re out hiking or spending time in wooded or brushy areas, you could pick up a tick. Program Coordinator at the Simcoe/Muskoka District Health Unit Lori Holmes says as soon as the snow melts, ticks will start to be active. She says to cover up while you’re outside, and wear light-coloured clothing so if you do pick up a tick it will be easily identifiable. She also says insect repellent that has DEET or Icaridin will help keep ticks away.
If you notice a tick on you, Holmes says the first step is to make sure you remove it properly.
Holmes says another important thing to do is a tick check. If you’re outside and think you have a tick on you Holmes says check your whole body, particularly behind your knees or little areas you might miss. She says to do that within two hours of being outdoors. You can also check your pets for ticks, as the bugs can attach themselves and be carried inside.
If you have been bitten by a tick, Holmes says to save it and take it to a health unit office in a ziplock bag or pill-sized container.
Holmes says it’s also important to talk to your family doctor if you start to feel unwell. She says if you were bitten by a tick and infected by the bacteria that causes Lyme disease you could start seeing symptoms within three days. She says that includes fever, fatigue, muscle pains, headaches, and in some cases a bulls-eye type rash.
By taking the bugs from the public, Holmes says the health unit is able to understand the types of ticks that are present in the area. She says they will take any type and identify it. On top of that, the health unit will also conduct tick-dragging, which allows it to find where the ticks are living. Holmes says that involves taking a white sheet and dragging it in brushy or woodland areas. They will then check the sheet every 500-metres or so to see if ticks are present on the fabric.
Black-legged ticks are the only ones in Ontario that carry the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease, according to Holmes. However, not every single black-legged tick will carry that bacteria, it has to be infected in order to pass it on to humans. The Ontario government says the probability is low, but it is possible to encounter an infected tick anywhere in the province.
The province also Lyme disease could be fatal in rare cases. It says most cases can be treated with antibiotics, but if left untreated symptoms can include arthritis and neurological problems, numbness, and paralysis.