How to Protect Against Ticks & Lyme Disease

Ticks are tricky: they’re small and their bite is often painless. But when they stick around, it can be trouble, as they transmit Lyme disease and other illnesses.

tick

The blacklegged tick population is on the rise around Moncton. In an interview with CBC in 2015, Mount Allison biology professor Vett Lloyd said “it’s important to remember that there are ticks out there and to check yourself, check your dogs, check your children when you come inside.”

To date, the Government of Canada states that the known endemic areas for Lyme disease in New Brunswick are in the Millidgeville area of Saint John and North Head on Grand Manan Island. These locations have had ticks and Lyme disease confirmed over multiple years. Lloyd’s lab has suggested that infection rates for Lyme disease are growing across the province, with Moncton showing a significant increase.

Although Lyme disease can be serious, many cases are effectively treated with antibiotics. Prevention and early detection are important.

Ticks 101

  • A bite from a blacklegged tick can cause Lyme disease, as well as other illnesses
  • Tick bites most often occur in spring and summer
  • Blacklegged ticks can be found in overgrown areas, as well as in forests
  • Take extra precautions if you are taking part in outdoor activities, such as hiking, gardening, fishing, camping, golfing, or hunting
  • Ticks can also come into your yard or home on pets

What to Do

Don’t panic.

Not all ticks are infected.

Even if the tick is infected, transmission of Lyme disease does not begin automatically; it can actually take a few days before it happens.

And most cases of Lyme disease are easily treated and cured, if caught early.

Health Canada suggests you visit a doctor if you find a tick attached to your skin, you experience symptoms of Lyme disease, or you feel unwell after spending time outdoors.

If you feel comfortable doing it, the government’s website also explains one method to remove a tick.

  • Grasp the head of the tick as close to the skin as possible, using tweezers.
  • Slowly pull the tick straight out.
  • Store the tick in a zip-lock bag, so that it might be tested for Lyme disease.
  • Wash the bite site with soap and water.

Not everyone agrees this is the best method. For other tick removal methods, visit the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation’s website. There are videos and links, as well as information on tick removal tools you can purchase.

If you do remove a tick — either from a person or an animal — you can send it for testing at Dr. Lloyd’s lab at Mount Allison. The tick will be tested for free, for research purposes. Ticks found on people can also be sent for testing via Public Health.

What Symptoms To Watch For

Low-grade fever, fatigue, joint pain, and headache are all associated with Lyme disease.

Watch for an expanding rash, possibly in the shape of a bull’s eye. This rash is not painful, but may be warm to the touch. It can appear within a few days of a tick bite, but might also not appear until a month has passed.

If you have been bitten, speak with your healthcare provider about receiving antibiotics as a preventative measure.

Ways to Prevent Tick Bites

Here are some steps you can take to make your home less inviting for ticks:

  • Keep the grass mowed
  • Move play areas away from woods and place them on a mulch or woodchip foundation
  • Keep leaves, brush, and weeds from gathering along walls, woodpiles, etc.
  • Discuss tick repellents with your veterinarian
  • Move firewood piles and bird feeders away from the house
  • Use stone and metals instead of soil for planting
  • Discourage rodents

Here are ways to protect yourself, especially if you’re heading into woodland, forests, or overgrown areas:

  • Wear closed-toe shoes, long-sleeved shirt, and pants
  • Pull your socks up over your pant legs
  • Wear light coloured clothing, making ticks easier to see
  • Tie back long hair
  • Use insect repellent
  • Shower/bath after being out, to wash away loose ticks
  • Examine yourself/your children/your pets for ticks; pay attention to body creases (armpit, groin, back of the knee, etc.)

Lyme disease can cause serious health issues, but removing a tick within 24 to 36 hours usually prevents infection. Most cases of Lyme disease are effectively treated with antibiotics. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control states that untreated Lyme disease during pregnancy can be dangerous, but that “no serious effects on the fetus have been found in cases where the mother receives appropriate antibiotic treatment.” The CDC also notes there are “no reports of Lyme disease transmission from breast milk.”

It’s also important to remember that while the risk is real and on the rise, in 2015 the Canadian government reported a total of 707 cases in the country.

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