The tick invasion through Eastern Ontario and the possibility of contracting Lyme disease is a serious issue and illness that can be spread to people by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks). Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics. However, if left untreated, symptoms can last for months or even years and can cause serious health issues.
Blacklegged ticks are found in woodlands, tall grasses and bushes, and are now throughout Ontario – including the five eastern counties. The number of infected blacklegged ticks is increasing each year with several ticks encountered here on Desert Lake.
- Check out the map of estimated risk areas for Lyme disease in Ontario.
Ticks are most active in the spring and summer months but can be found at any time of the year when the temperature is above freezing. Adult ticks are about the size of a sesame seed, while the immature nymphs can be as small as a poppy seed. When they’re engorged with blood, they can be as large as a grape. Unable to fly, ticks move slowly on the ground or settle on tall grass.
Their bite is usually painless, so you may not know you’ve been bitten. This is why it's important to take steps to protect yourself, and to be on the lookout for ticks and the symptoms of Lyme disease. A tick check over the body should take place after every occasion you have enjoyed the outdoors, as early detection is critical.
Note that a tick bite doesn’t always result in Lyme disease. A tick has to be infected with Lyme disease bacteria in order to pass it on to a host. The risk of getting Lyme disease from a tick bite is believed to be greater if an infected tick has been attached to you for more than 24 hours.
TICK PREVENTION WHEN ENJOYING THE OUTDOORS
You can reduce the risk of being bitten by a blacklegged tick by consistently taking a few simple precautions.
Discourage the presence of ticks around your property:
- If you are next to a wooded area or tall grasses, create a border of gravel or woodchips one metre or wider around your yard.
- Maintain your grass and mow it short.
- Trim back bushes and tree branches to let in sunlight as ticks avoid dry and hot locations.
- Clean up areas under and around bird feeders, to reduce the attraction of small critters such as mice and voles who can carry ticks.
- Discourage deer from entering your yard, as ticks frequently feed on these animals.
- Relocate children’s playground equipment and sandboxes away from wooded areas.
- Remove leaf litter, brush, and weeds from woodpiles, stone walls and at the edge of the lawn.
- Wear light-coloured apparel, as spotting ticks will be easier.
- Wear closed footwear, socks, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants. Tuck your shirt into your pants, and tuck your pants into your socks.
- Apply insect repellent that has DEET or Icaridin on apparel and exposed skin (be sure to follow the manufacturer’s specific directions).
- After outdoor enjoyment, inspect apparel and your body for ticks, especially if you were in an area where there’s tall grass or shrubs, or where ticks are known to live. Inspect your children carefully. Pay special attention to areas such as the groin, navel, armpits, scalp and behind the ears and knees. Use a mirror to check the back of your body, or have someone else inspect these areas for you.
- Take a shower as soon as you can after being outdoors to improve the chances of finding a tick and washing it away. Use the lather of soap to slide your hands along your body to feel for a tiny bump on the skin. It can sometimes be easier to feel for them than to spot them visually, as they can blend in with pigmentation on the skin.
- Ticks thrive in wet environments. Before washing outdoor apparel, place them in the dryer on high heat for 60 minutes to kill any ticks.
If you find a tick on your body, remove it as soon as possible. The risk of getting Lyme disease increases with the length of time the tick remains attached to your body. Click to view 6 steps to take to safely and effectively remove a tick.
It is important to contact your doctor if you believe a tick has been attached to you for 24 or more hours, or if you are unsure how long the tick has been attached to you, so that your doctor can determine if you need treatment with antibiotics. Treatment with antibiotics could be considered when:
- the tick has been attached for 24 or more hours or is fully or partially engorged and;
- it has been less than or equal to 72 hours since the tick has been removed;
NEW: You can now submit a photo of the tick for species identification, to confirm if it is a blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis or I. scapularis). For more information, visit www.etick.ca.
IF YOU HAVE PETS
- Speak with your veterinarian about appropriate tick prevention for your furry friend.
- Check for ticks regularly on your pet if they spend time outdoors. Ticks may attach to them and be carried indoors, putting you and your family at risk.
- Steps for removing a tick from your pet are the same steps that you would follow for yourself.
For more information about Lyme disease, call the Eastern Ontario Health Unit at 613-933-1375 or 1 800 267-7120.