Tick Tips for Summer

Edited by Admin
Tick Tips for Summer

Tick Tips


Summer weather in Canada brings opportunities for camping, spending time at the cottage, hiking, biking, golfing, and many other excellent outdoor activities. However, it’s important to remember that warmer weather also means tick weather. These miniature pests are proliferating in Canada, and although most times a tick bite is no cause for alarm, black-legged ticks can carry (Borrelia burgdorferi,) the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. These ticks are also known as deer ticks because they pick up the bacteria from infected mice or deer and can then transfer it to humans. Obviously, preventing tick bites is your first line of defense. But if you get bitten, be sure that you know what to do.


Preventing Tick Bites


Your best weapon against ticks is knowledge: know where these wee beasties hang out! The Government of Canada tracks statistics on ticks and checks the concentration of them in some of the larger parks across the country. The provinces with the highest concentrations of black-legged ticks are Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, where these insects have been established for many years. If you are aware that ticks are problem where you are headed, you can take steps to discourage them and remain vigilant about looking for them on family and pets. Here are some methods you can use to avoid being bitten:

  • Don’t walk in high grass. Ticks like shady, moist areas on the tips of long grasses, and many times they latch onto legs as people walk right the places where they cluster. Taking a short cut through a grassy area can be an invitation for ticks. Stay on the path, and stay where it’s sunny and dry.
  • Minimize exposed areas. Wear long pants tucked into boots or socks, long sleeves, a hat, and closed shoes. The less skin that is exposed, the less attractive you’ll be to ticks.
  • Wear light-coloured clothing. Ticks are easier to see against light clothing, so you’ll be able to spot and remove them more quickly. Bonus: mosquitoes are less likely to bite if you wear light-coloured clothing.
  • Use repellent. Spray your clothing with DEET-type insect repellent, which repels both ticks and mosquitoes. Health Canada recommends using a product containing no more than 10% DEET for children under 12 years of age but warns that this may not be effective for exposures lasting more than 1 to 2 hours. children older than 12 and adults should use a repellent containing up to 30% DEET can be used as recommended on the product label.
  • Pets. Check with your veterinarian about the best way to protect dogs and other pets who will be spending time outdoors.


If You Are Bitten


After you come in from being outdoors, put your clothes in the dryer for 30 minutes, shower, and then perform a self-inspection. Ticks are small, and their bites are usually painless, so you will need to be thorough. Be sure to inspect your scalp, ankles, armpits, groin, navel, and behind your ears and knees. Despite taking precautions, you may find that a tick has latched on. If you do find a tick, you will want to remove it immediately. Use sharp tweezers, grasp the tick's head close to the skin, and pull straight up without twisting or crushing the tick’s body. Make sure it has been completely removed, then disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol. (If you are not able to remove the tick yourself, get help.)


Most times you won’t have anything to worry about; the majority of people who are bitten by ticks do not contract Lyme disease. It usually takes 24 for 36 hours for the bacteria that causes Lyme to transfer into your body, so if you remove the tick in a timely fashion, you’ll have a decreased risk of contracting the disease. (However, save the tick in a plastic jar or bottle in case you need it to be tested.)


It can take weeks for symptoms of Lyme to develop. If you’ve been bitten by a tick, watch for the following:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue
  • Bull’s-eye rash (erythema migrans)


The most specific of these symptoms is the rash, which occurs in approximately 70 – 80% of infected persons. It begins at the site of the tick bite within 3 to 30 days and can expand to be up to 30 cm in diameter. It may feel warm to the touch but is not usually itchy or painful. It’s important to remember, however, that not everyone infected with Lyme disease experiences this symptom.


If you experience any of these symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to infection in the heart, joints, and central nervous system. However, when caught early enough, the infection can usually be cleared with antibiotics.


When it comes to ticks, know what to expect, how to protect yourself, and what to do if you get bitten.