Now that the warmer weather is upon us, the active tick season is upon us as well. Found in brushy, grassy, and wooded areas, these tiny creatures are mainly active from April to September, just in time for us to enjoy the outdoors. But they can be seen all year round.
“In Ontario, the Ixodes Scapularis (deer tick) is one we are most concerned about that carries Lyme disease,” said Ian Young, an associate professor at Ryerson University.
If you are planning on going out for a walk on a trail, there are some steps you should take to try and prevent yourself from getting a tick. Wear some light-coloured clothing so you can see the ticks more clearly when you are done your walk. Wear a long sleeve shirt, long pants, or any clothing that is designed to prevent ticks. Use insect repellent as well, spray it on all of your clothes and exposed skin to keep the ticks away.
“Closed shoes, not walking in sandals for example if you’re going in a wooded area or areas that might have ticks,” said Young.
When you get home, there are some steps you should take to kill any ticks you may have on you. Put your clothes in the dryer for a least ten minutes on high heat before you wash them. Then check yourself and anyone else who went on the walk with you for ticks. You have to check on your head, in your belly button, behind your knees, in your underarm area, in your groin area, and on your back.
Check your pet for ticks as well. “Pets can also get ticks that might also transmit diseases to them, so it’s also important to check your pets as well,” said Young.
If you do find a tick, use a pair of tweezers and pull straight out to remove it. When it is removed, do not crush it, dispose of it by putting it in alcohol, flushing it down the toilet, putting in a tightly sealed bag/container, or wrapping it in tape. Then clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
“If you squeeze it, it can actually transfer bacteria that could carry Lyme disease potentially to your blood, so you don’t want to do that, so it has to be carefully removed that way,” said Young.
Although there are many diseases ticks can give to humans, Lyme disease is the most common in Canada. Lyme disease is a serious infection given by black-legged ticks, also known as a deer tick.
“Unlike mosquito-borne disease where if you are bitten by a mosquito and it has the West Nile virus it would transmit immediately to you if they had it, with ticks it does take a while,” said Young.
“I was home because I thought I had a cold for three days. I was hopping in the shower and as soon as I lifted up my shirt and looked in the mirror there was a bullseye on my back,” said Hailey Thomas. Hailey got Lyme disease back in 2015.
Lyme disease symptoms include a rash, chills, fever, stiff neck, headache, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, muscle aches and joint pain, facial paralysis, and spasms, numbness or tingling.
“I was feeling like I had a cold, eventually it turned worse than a cold. I was so dizzy I could not walk, I felt nauseous all the time, I barely could eat, I was so fatigued I could barely lift a finger,” said Thomas.
Symptoms appear between 3 and 30 days after being bitten by an infected blacklegged tick.
“I went to the doctor, for the first two weeks it came up negative because it was too early to catch, but eventually the next time I went to the doctor, it came back positive,” said Thomas.
Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics.
If Lyme disease goes untreated, you could feel tired and weak. If it gets really bad, it could affect your heart, liver, joints and nerves. If it goes untreated for too long, the symptoms could last for years. Causing arthritis, numbness, neurological problems, paralysis, and in rare cases, death.
Although not all ticks are infected with the diseases, it’s better to be prepared.