Be Tick Smart: Repel, Inspect, Remove!
It's summer! That means lots of walks in the woods and fields, enjoying the great Canadian outdoors. However, these beautiful spaces for hiking, biking and picnics are also home to ticks. Follow these simple rules to avoid ticks as much as possible:
- Avoid grassy areas and shrubs where ticks may be lying in wait to tag a ride on you. Ticks like to lurk in brush, scrub, leaf litter, and long grass.
- Avoid tick season completely by staying away from outdoor areas where ticks thrive, usually during the months of April through September.
- Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can be easily seen, and brush them off.
- Tuck your pants into your socks.
- If you opt for toxic (DEET) repellents, spray them ONLY on your clothing, and DON'T spray them on your pets. Natural essential oil repellents may help, but these formulas are not proven to repel ticks.
- If you've been in an area where ticks may be lurking, as soon as possible, remove your clothes (20 - 30 minutes in a hot dryer will kill any ticks clinging to your clothes) and check your body closely. Ticks like to crawl into crevices and hidden areas, so if you don't have a check "buddy" try using a mirror to view areas like your back, and don't forget your scalp.
- If you discover a tick already embedded, try to remove the tick as soon as you discover it because prompt removal can prevent transmission of tick-borne diseases.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers and firmly grasp the tick close to the skin. Do not grasp it by the body, as squeezing the tick can cause it to regurgitate its stomach contents. Avoid touching the tick with your bare hands.
- With a steady motion, pull straight up until all parts of the tick are removed. Do not twist or jerk the tick. Do not be alarmed if the tick’s mouthparts remain in the skin. Once the mouthparts are removed from the rest of the tick, it can no longer transmit disease-causing bacteria.
- DO NOT use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish, or other products to remove a tick. These methods are ineffective.
- Thoroughly wash your hands and the bite area.
- After removing the tick, wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Clean the tick bite with soap and water or use an antiseptic such as iodine scrub or rubbing alcohol.
- Removing ticks within 12 - 24 hours after the tick bite usually prevents infection.
- You can take the tick – in a secure container like a sealed baggie or pill bottle – to your doctor, health care professional or local public health unit. If appropriate, they will send it to the Public Health Ontario Laboratory for identification. By bringing a tick in for identification, you help authorities to keep track of tick populations, growth and movement. However, tick testing is not intended as a diagnosis of Lyme disease.
- People with Lyme disease often see symptoms within 1-2 weeks of a tick bite. But symptoms can appear as early as 3 to 30 days after a bite from an infected blacklegged tick.
Common symptoms of Lyme disease include:
- muscle and joint pain
- spasms, numbness or tingling
- facial paralysis
- swollen glands
- expanding skin rash
- See your doctor or a healthcare professional right away, whether you have symptoms, or are just feeling unwell in the weeks following a tick bite.