Now that the nicer weather is here, are you concerned about being out in the woods due to the threat of ticks and Lyme disease?  The truth is, given our warmer winters, ticks are active all year round so you need to protect yourself every time you go outside.  Ticks are present in the woods, in tall grasses, and even in vegetable gardens. Unfortunately, no place in southern Ontario or Quebec is immune from ticks.  Thankfully, there are things you can do to ensure you safely enjoy the outdoors.

Blacklegged ticks can carry the bacteria related to Lyme disease. Most people, who have been infected with Lyme disease, contracted it from an immature tick called a nymph. Nymphs are tiny, only about 2mm long and the same size as a poppy seed. This makes them very difficult to see.  Adult ticks can also carry the Lyme disease bacteria but are easier to spot and therefore tend to be removed before they had a chance to bite.

The best form of prevention is to apply a Canada approved insect repellent that contains DEET or icaridin.  This should be applied to exposed skin and clothing.  When outside in tick prone areas, it is best to wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and long socks to cover as much exposed skin as possible. Tucking your pants into your socks can limit access to your skin.  Consider wearing light coloured clothing to help see any ticks that may be on your clothes.  Staying on trails and paths will help limit access to plants with ticks, and try to avoid the long grass and bushes on the borders of mowed fields.  Always do a full body check on yourself, your children, and pets, when you come in from being outside. It is possible for ticks to move from pets to yourself or your children.

If you find a tick, you should remove it as soon as possible. The longer the tick is attached the greater the risk of getting Lyme disease.  If the tick has been attached to you or family member for 24 hours or longer contact your doctor as you may need a treatment of antibiotics. If you are unsure or uncomfortable about what to do when you find a tick, contact your doctor who will advise you on next steps.

To remove a tick use of pair of fine-pointed tweezers. Grasp the head as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull straight up until the tick is removed.  Do not twist or rotate the tick. Do not use a match, lotion, or anything else you might have read on the Internet.  Wash the bite site with soap and water. If you are going to see your doctor, they might want you to bring the tick with them. If so, place the tick in an empty pill container or Ziploc bag.  If you want help to identify the type of tick, you can go online to and submit a picture to their tick identification platform.  To dispose of a live tick you can flush it down the toilet, or place it in a sealed bag or container and throw it out in your household garbage.

If you are concerned about your pet contracting Lyme disease, talk to your vet about options for controlling ticks on your pet.