"If you go out in the woods today...
...you're sure of a big surprise." Unfortunately it's not the Teddy Bear's picnic you are likely to encounter. It's legions of tiny ticks clinging to blades of grass or bushes waiting to ambush an unsuspecting host. Yes, that host could be you or your family pet.
Ticks attach themselves to your skin and feed on your blood for days. Besides the irritation of the bite they may transmit tick-borne diseases - the most prevalent being Lyme disease.
Lyme disease in Canada is a relatively new phenomenon. Experts believe that warmer temperatures are the likely reason the tick population is moving North and with it the threat of Lyme disease. According to the Center of Disease Control, Lyme disease is the fastest growing infectious disease in North America. Lyme disease is a reportable disease in Canada. Doctors are now required to report all cases to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed partly because it's relatively new in Canada and partly because its symptoms are fairly generic mimicking other disorders...chills, low grade fever, headache, muscle and joint pains and skin rash. If Lyme disease is not treated with antibiotics soon after infection, patients may develop more serious arthritic and neurological problems.
Does that mean that you should not go outdoors anymore? Not at all...just make yourself a less enticing meal for a tick. Health Canada offers several tips, including:
- wear long-sleeved shirts with closed cuffs and tuck your pants into your socks or boots
- wear light -coloured clothing so it's easier to spot tick hitchhikers
- instead of sandals wear closed shoes
- use insect repellents containing DEET in tick endemic areas
What to do if you are the unlucky host of a tick? With tweezers carefully remove the tick but make sure not to detach the mouth part . If you can't remove it, see your family physician.