Spring is here. The flowers are popping up, the trees are budding, and gardeners are getting their gardens ready. Something else is stirring and getting ready to bite, and I do not mean mosquitos. Blacklegged ticks are making an appearance and they are not welcomed. Sadly, we must learn to live with these ticks, some of which may carry Lyme disease. Maybe now is a good time to remind ourselves how best to deal with ticks.
Lyme disease is a serious illness that can affect your heart, nerves, liver, and joints. If untreated it can last years. Thankfully, most cases of Lynn disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics if caught early and diagnosed properly. The best way thing to do is to avoid getting it and the best way to do that is to be tick aware and take the necessary precautions.
Not all blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease and not everyone who is bitten by an infected tick will develop symptoms of the disease. However, everyone should be aware of the dangers and learn how to best protect himself or herself.
Blacklegged ticks are very small making them very hard to see. The longer they have been feeding on a human or animal, the larger they get. This means they are often not detected until they have been feeding for a while and are large enough to notice. Ticks are most active in the spring and summer but can be active any time the temperature is above freezing. Ticks are found almost everywhere is the most southern parts of Ontario but their region is getting larger. You can reference this map to find out about specific areas.
The more time you spend in wooded areas or fields with tall grasses and brush (gardens and parks) the greater the chance you have of getting a tick bite. The best things you can do to avoid a bite are:
Wear light coloured clothing (it’s easier to see the ticks), closed toed shoes, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, tucked into your socks, clothing designed to repel ticks.
Use Insect Repellent:
Use a repellent that has DEET or “icaridin”. Spray it on both your clothes and exposed skin. Always read the label before using.
Put Clothes In The Dryer:
Putting your clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10mins will kill any ticks that may be on your clothes.
Check Yourself And Children:
After being outdoors, always check yourself and your children for ticks. Look behind the knee, on your head, in your belly button, in your groin area, in your underarm area, and on the back of your body
Check Your Pets:
After being outdoors check your pets for ticks to help prevent them from being bitten and to stop ticks from traveling from your pet to you.
Maintain Your Property:
Minimize the risk in your back yard by doing the following
1) Keeping the grass mowed
2) Trimming bushes and tree branches to allow more sunlight on to the branches
3) Create a border of gravel or wood chips if your property is next to a woodlot or tall grass
4) Remove leaf litter that could provide shelter to ticks
5) Place children’s play areas away from wooded areas.
If you do find a tick on you, your children or pet, do not crush or damage the tick as that could cause the tick to pass bacteria to the host’s bloodstream. Instead…
1) Use fine tipped tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible
2) Pull the tick straight out, gently but firmly (do not jerk, twist, or squeeze the tick)
3) Once you removed the tick, wash your hands with soap and water and disinfect the skin and hands with rubbing alcohol.
4) Before dispensing of the tick, call or check the website of your local health unit to get advice on how to identify the tick.
Symptoms of Lyme disease usually occur between 3 and 30 days after a bite and include:
- a) Abull’s-eye rash (a red patch on the skin that is usually round or oval and more than 5 cm that spreads outwards and is getting bigger
- b) A bruise-like rash (usually on darker skin tones)
- c) another type of unusual rash
5) Stiff neck
6) Muscle aches and joint pains
7) Fatigue (more tired than usual)
8) Swollen lymph nodes
9) Spasms, numbness or tingling
10 Facial paralysis
If you are concerned that you may have contracted Lyme disease, contact your health care provider right away.