Now that Summer has finally come to Canada (woohoo!), it means Canadians can enjoy the weather outside and do activities that are closer to nature such as camping, gardening and visiting parks. However, humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy the warm weather; warm weather also attracts ticks, mosquitoes and fleas. When enjoying outdoor activities, one must be careful of bugs such as ticks, which can transmit lyme disease and other infections. A study conducted in Nova Scotia found that more children are contracting lyme related arthritis and that the majority of documented case came from the past two years. Lyme disease is on the rise in Canada, especially since ticks are found in six provinces in Canada and is continuously spreading into various neighbourhoods.
What Are Ticks?
Ticks are closely related to spiders, feed on blood, and come in contact with animals and people through tall grasses and small bushes. Ticks are very small in size when unfed, therefore often goes unnoticed by people. Tick bites are painless, but some are infectious and may result in lyme disease. It’s possible for Canadians to encounter ticks and lyme disease almost anywhere in Canada since ticks feed on migratory birds that transports it to other areas.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Early symptoms occur on average one to two weeks after a tick bite, but can occur as early as 3 days or as late as 1 month after the incident.
Some of the common symptoms include:
- Fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches
- Skin rash that looks like a bullseye called erythema migrans
- Facial or Bell’s palsy (loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face)
- Neurological and sleep disturbances
A typical bullseye rash.
Around 60% of patients who were untreated would develop lyme related arthritis with severe joint pain and and swelling in the large joints such as knees.
Consult a doctor right away if bitten by a tick or if you exhibit any of the above symptoms.
The most common treatments for lyme disease is oral antibiotics such as: doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil.
If the tick is attached to a person, it should be removed straight away using fine tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible, and pull it out, gently but firmly. Thoroughly cleanse affected area with rubbing alcohol. You can bring the tick to your doctor or local healthcare providers to identify whether the tick is infected with lyme disease. Medical attention should be sought if any symptoms of early Lyme disease develop within 30 days of removal of the tick.
How to Avoid Ticks
- Wear light-coloured clothes, long pants and a long sleeved shirt.
- Wear closed footwear and socks.
- Tuck your pants into your socks.
- Use a tick repellent that has “DEET” (following the manufacturer’s directions for use). Apply it to your skin and outer clothing. Avoid your eyes and mouth, as well as cuts and scrapes.
- Put a tick and flea collar on your pet and check them for ticks periodically.
Outdoor activities are enjoyable no matter if you’re with your family or friends. However, outdoor safety should not be ignore. Taking necessary precautions (e.g., downloading the iamsick.ca app when you travel) and knowing what healthcare options are available in the time of need will let you enjoy the Canada’s beautiful wilderness with peace of mind.