The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) is encouraging individuals working in or exploring the outdoors with friends, family or pets this fall, to make small changes that can help to prevent tick bites.
Even though exposure to ticks can occur from April to November, there are two surges when ticks are typically more active, one in the spring and one in the fall.
The tick season ends when there is a permanent snowfall or when the air temperature is consistently below four C.
There are two main tick species in Northwestern Ontario–wood (dog) ticks and blacklegged (deer) ticks.
Wood ticks are not known to transmit tick-borne disease and pose little risk to a person’s health whereas blacklegged ticks can transmit tick-borne diseases to humans.
The risk of contracting a tick-borne disease is lower if you take steps to prevent tick bites:
•Avoid places with long grasses. If you are hiking or walking, stay in the centre of the trail.
•Wear light colored clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
•Use an insect repellant with DEET or Icaridin. Be sure to follow the product label guidelines, especially for use on infants, children, and women who are pregnant.
•Check yourself, your children, and your pets for ticks after being outdoors.
•Talk to your veterinarian about options to protect your pet.
•Ensure all ticks are removed properly as soon as possible.
If a tick is attached to a person:
•Grasp the head of the tick with clean tweezers as close to the skin as possible.
•Pull it straight out, gently but firmly.
•Clean the area with an alcohol swab or soap and water.
•If you have a blacklegged tick attached to you for more than 24 hours, you should consider visiting a health care provider within 72 hours of removing it.
If you have found a tick on yourself or someone else, you can drop it off at your local health unit office to be identified by a public health inspector.
You can also submit photos of ticks electronically through our new NWHUConnect – Healthy Environments app.
A public health inspector will review the photo and reply with further instructions on what to do with the tick.
Blacklegged ticks submitted by the public will be sent for further lab testing for surveillance purposes only.
These results are not used to guide patient treatment.
Symptoms of Lyme disease may occur three to 30 days after being bitten by a blacklegged tick.
Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and a skin rash that looks like a red bull’s eye.
If you think you have Lyme disease, please visit your physician.
For more information on the most recent surveillance data or tick-borne diseases visit the health unit website at www.nwhu.on.ca or contact a public health inspector at your local health unit office.