What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks). It can cause a rash that looks like a red bull's eye, as well as flu-like symptoms. If it isn’t treated, Lyme disease can affect the heart, nervous system or joints. However, if it’s caught early Lyme disease can generally be treated successfully.
What are blacklegged ticks?
Blacklegged ticks are found throughout Ontario, including Eastern Ontario. They’re most active in spring and summer months. Ticks can’t fly; instead they move slowly on the ground, or settle on tall grass. Before feeding, they’re about the size of a sesame seed. When they’re full of blood, they can be as large as a grape. They’re most likely to spread infection after being attached for more than one day. However, a bite from a tick doesn’t always result in Lyme disease.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of Lyme disease usually occur within one to two weeks after being bitten by an infected tick. Symptoms may include:
- muscle and joint pains
- skin rash that looks like a red bull’s eye
Who is at risk of Lyme disease?
Anyone can get Lyme disease, but people who spend more time outdoors are at higher risk. These include:
- hikers, campers, hunters, or other outdoor enthusiasts
- people who live or work in an area near woods or overgrown bush
- people who have outdoor jobs such as landscaping or brush clearing
How can I protect myself from ticks and Lyme disease?
- Use bug repellent containing DEET. Read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for safe use. (Choosing a Personal Insect Repellent)
- Avoid shrubs and tall grass.
- Wear light-coloured clothing, and long sleeves, long pants tucked into your socks, and closed footwear.
- Check yourself and your children for ticks (include armpits, groin, scalp, and have someone else check the back of your body). A quick shower may help remove any ticks not yet attached.
- Pets may bring ticks into the house. Consult your vet about how you can protect your pet from ticks.
What do I do if I’ve been bitten by a tick?
- With a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as closely as possible to where it entered the skin.
- In a slow, gentle, yet firm motion, pull out without twisting, until the tick’s mouth lets go. DON’T SQUEEZE THE TICK. If any parts remain, a doctor can remove them.
If you spot a tick on your skin, remove it as soon as possible.
- Wash your hands and the site of the bite with soap and water, and disinfect the site.
- If possible, take the tick to the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, where it will be sent away for species identification and, if necessary, tested for Lyme disease.
Contact your healthcare provider if you develop symptoms of Lyme disease (especially a bull’s eye rash).
Your Health: How to Prevent Tick Bites
Your Health: Lyme Disease
Tick Talk with the Bug Doc