Lyme disease is carried by the black-legged tick which transfers Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium through its bite. Not every black-legged tick carries the bacteria which causes Lyme disease, but some areas of Canada are considered higher risk. Ticks migrate by attaching to wildlife and birds, so they can end up anywhere. Ticks are active as soon as the snow melts, but the ones that carry Lyme disease are present at variable times in your region. Your provincial government website can provide the most recent update on Lyme disease risk in your area.
Lyme disease can cause long-term illness affecting muscles, joints, heart, and nervous system. Most people fully recover with proper antibiotic treatment but left untreated, it may cause serious symptoms lasting months to years, or even death.
Adult and young black-legged ticks can carry the bacteria, but preventing their bite or removing them within 24 to 36 hours are ways to avoid Lyme disease. Having a “tick removal kit” on hand is an inexpensive way to prevent debilitating, long-term disease.
- Wear socks over your pants and long-sleeved shirts to prevent ticks from crawling onto your skin
- Choose close-toed shoes or boots
- Light-coloured clothing makes spotting the darker tick easier
- Apply DEET or Icaridin insect repellent on exposed skin (follow label directions)
- Avoid tall grasses, woodlands, and brush where ticks fall or climb on as you pass
- Keep your green area trimmed and clear of leaves or other debris
- Apply tick repellent on your pet, as recommended by your veterinarian
- Check for ticks when returning indoors
- Do a full-body check on yourself, children, and pets
- Taking a shower or bath on return to facilitate a full check, especially in armpits, skin folds, groin area, belly button, hair
- Throw clothes into a dryer and run on hot for 10 minutes, or hang in the hot sun for 15 minutes to kill ticks
- Carry a tick-removal kit or pointed tweezer on hikes and have one at home
Tick removal with a pointed tweezer, accurately grasping the head and next to the skin with an upward, steady pull will dislodge the insect without squeezing the body. Clean the bite area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. If you think the tick is a black-legged tick, save it for testing.
Don’t crush a tick with your fingers as you can get infected this way also. Other methods to remove ticks risk getting the tick to inject more bacteria into you (grabbing the body with fingers, or attempting to apply heat or substances to get the tick to “back off”).
Symptoms of Lyme disease are the same as many other illnesses, making it easy to dismiss, and difficult to diagnose. Saving the tick, recalling when and where you got the bite can help your doctor diagnose if you have Lyme disease. Seeking treatment as soon as possible will control symptoms, prevent long-term health issues, and speed up your recovery.
See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
- Unexplained muscle or joint aches
- Inflamed ring “bullseye” around the tick bite
Your PharmaChoice pharmacist can help you put together a tick-removal kit, and answer questions regarding Lyme disease.