Be tick wary when outdoors

(Photo by the California Department of Public Health)

With the return of warm weather, we’re being reminded that tiny eight-legged ticks can cause serious health consequences.

Lambton Public Health says there are plenty of ways to protect ourselves from the blood-hungry bugs that can cause Lyme disease.

“Use insect repellant that contains 20 per cent to 30 per cent DEET if you’re going to go out, certainly wearing long sleeves and pants helps, but that’s not always possible,” said Health Protection Supervisor Lori Lucas. “What you can do though is make sure you check yourself for ticks. Stick to the trails where possible, but do your tick checks when you’re done, and try to look closely in all those areas where ticks might hide.”

Lucas also recommends wearing fully closed footwear when walking in tick-prone areas and wearing light coloured clothes so that ticks are easy to spot.

She said ticks like to hide under the armpits, behind the knees, in the hair, and the groin.

Medical Officer of Health for Lambton County Dr. Sudit Ranade said ticks typically return to the area when the frost leaves.

He said they’re usually found in environments with tall grasses, woods, and bushes.

“It’s just cool enough that they like being outside– it’s not super hot, and it’s not super cold– so this time of year is an active season, and also again in the fall,” said Ranade. “Summer’s pretty active too– we consider tick season as being from when there’s no more frost to the time where frost starts to appear.”

Lambton Public Health collected a few less ticks in 2018 compared to previous years, but Lucas said that doesn’t mean there’s less of a risk of being bitten.

“We passively collected 224 ticks in 2018, 30 of them were black-legged ticks [also known as deer ticks], and none of them came back as positive [for Lyme disease],” said Lucas. “The numbers are maybe a little bit lower [than past years], but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. We had 361 ticks brought in in 2017, but we can’t say with any certainty the tick population is dropping.”

Lucas said if you find a tick on yourself, a family member, or a pet, carefully remove it with fine-tip tweezers– ticks found on a person can be submitted to Lambton Public Health for identification.

She said if you remove a tick within 24 hours you can greatly reduce your chances of getting Lyme disease.

Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, pain in muscles and joints, fatigue, and an expanding red rash — the rash can sometimes look like a bull’s eye.

Without treatment, Lyme disease can lead to arthritic symptoms, heart problems, nervous system disorders, and extreme fatigue.