Be on the alert: ticks on the rise in Canada
May 16, 2019 By By the CCOHS
May 16, 2019 – Ticks are crawling back into the news and carrying with them the potential for Lyme disease. The number of reported Lyme disease cases in Canada between 2009 and 2016 rose from 144 cases to 992, and the areas where blacklegged ticks are found is growing.
Lyme disease is a serious bacterial infection that can have severe symptoms but it can be effectively treated with antibiotics if caught early.
While not all blacklegged ticks carry Lyme disease, populations of infected blacklegged ticks are growing. This means that the risk of contracting Lyme disease is on the rise across Canada. There are several ways to reduce the risk when spending time working outdoors in areas where there may be ticks. Ticks can be as small as a poppy seed and their bites are usually painless, so you may not know you’ve been bitten. That’s why it’s important to be on the lookout for ticks and the symptoms of Lyme disease.
Reducing your exposure to tick bites
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites. Here are some ways to protect yourself if you venture into forests or overgrown areas between the woods and open spaces:
- Wear protective clothing to prevent ticks from attaching to your skin. Wear closed toed shoes, long sleeve shirts that fit tightly around the wrist, and long-legged pants tucked into your socks or boots.
- If possible, avoid contact with low bushes and long grasses. For example, if hiking or walking, walk in the centre of the trail.
- Wear light coloured clothes to make spotting ticks easier.
- Use insect repellents containing DEET or Icaridin on your skin and clothing – always read and follow label directions.
- Wash clothes promptly and put them in the dryer with heat to help kill any ticks that may remain.
- Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to wash away loose ticks.
- Do daily “full body” checks for ticks on yourself, your children and pets.
What to do if a blacklegged tick bites you
If you find a tick attached to your skin, make sure you remove it carefully as follows:
- Use clean tweezers, grasp the head as close to the skin as possible and pull slowly straight out.
- Afterwards, wash the bite site with soap and water or disinfect with alcohol hand sanitizer.
- If mouthparts break off, remove them with tweezers or, if you are unable to remove them easily, leave them alone and let the skin heal.
If possible, save the tick that bit you in a clean container or plastic bag and record the date you were bit. Watch out for signs and symptoms of Lyme disease in the subsequent weeks. If you feel unwell, contact your health care provider right away. If you are diagnosed in the later stages of the disease, you may require a longer course of antibiotics and experience symptoms that continue more than six months after treatment. If you have saved the tick, bring it to your medical appointment as it may help the doctor.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) promotes the total well being of workers in Canada by providing information, training, education, systems and solutions that support health and safety programs and injury and illness prevention.
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