Ticks - What can we do about them?
Ticks are something that seems to be top of mind for many people these days—and there’s a good reason for this; ticks are becoming increasingly common throughout much of Ontario, and this trend is only expected to continue as climate change expands tick habitat further and further north. This doesn’t mean that it’s time to stop spending time outdoors, but it is important to be informed about the risks and what you can do to prevent being bitten.
The basics that you should know:
- Only Black-Legged Ticks carry Lyme Disease (there are many tick species native to Ontario).
- Ticks can't fly or jump, they can only crawl.
- Your best defense is prevention. Wear long pants, preferably tucked into your socks (a popular look amongst nature-lovers), and always check yourself after spending time in natural areas.
- When you come in from spending time in natural areas check around the edges of your socks or waist of your pants, check warm areas like your armpits, behind the knee, and groin.
- Ticks do not bite right away, they take some time to find the right spot--so you do have time to pick them off before they bite.
- If you are bitten follow the instructions below:
What to do if you have been bitten:
- Grab the tick as close to your skin as possible using pointed tweezers. You can also use specially designed “tick keys”. DO NOT use Vaseline, fire (a lit match or a lighter), dish soap, or any other method to remove the tick. These “old wives tales” actually pose a higher risk because they could cause the tick to regurgitate (ew!) and may increase the risk of Lyme disease transmission.
- Pull straight up firmly but gently. DO NOT twist or yank, you want to get the tick out in one piece.
- Once you have removed the tick, wash your skin with soap and water and then disinfect your skin and your hands with rubbing alcohol or an iodine swab.
- Put the tick in a secure container (for example, a bottle with a screw top so it can’t get out or be crushed) and contact your local public health unit). http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/common/system/services/phu/locations.aspx
If you have been bitten by a tick, there is no reason to panic right away. To even get Lyme disease the tick must a) be a black legged tick and b) actually be infected with Lyme. On top of that, in most cases the tick needs to be attached for over 24hrs for Lyme disease transmission to occur (https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/transmission/index.html). Which all makes a very strong case for checking yourself after spending time in tick habitat. That said, you can have the tick sent to your local health unit for testing. Symptoms of Lyme disease can start as early as three days after a bite and include:
- A “bulls-eye rash” around the bite (i.e., a red circle around the bite, but not everyone reacts this way), or an unusual rash
- Muscle and joint pain
- Spasms, numbness or tingling
If you would like to learn more about ticks and Lyme disease in Ontario check out: