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Tick Safety for this Hiking Season

Written by Martin Lesperance

We had a heck of a winter in North America and it’s not quite over yet! But the days are getting longer and warmer. Which means wood ticks are becoming more active. Depending on where you live, they may be active already.

If your employees work or play in the outdoors they should be aware of tick risks and prevention.

The Dangers of Lyme Disease

Not all ticks are dangerous, but because they bite, ticks can spread disease. Lyme disease is the most well-known infection carried by ticks. It’s caused by bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi), spread through the bite of infected ticks. The most common culprit is the black-legged (“deer”) tick.

In Canada over a recent period of five years, Lyme disease cases quadrupled to around 1,000.  In the USA, each year, approximately 30,000 new cases of Lyme disease are reported.

Once infected, a person with Lyme disease can be ill for years, which is why we need to take tick safety so seriously.

Ticks have spread across Canada, with more Lyme disease-carrying ticks found in Eastern Canada and Manitoba. And they’re not just in the wilderness anymore. Lyme ticks are now commonly found in cities and suburbs. In fact, Hamilton in Southern Ontario has been officially designated a risk area for Lyme disease. Ticks are on the move, expanding their territory, which means all Canadians need to be tick-aware.

Staying Safe from Ticks this Spring and Summer

The best defence is tick prevention.

In good news, ticks can be avoided. They don’t jump or leap, like fleas. Ticks wait for warm-blooded victims to come to them. They first attach themselves to grasses, bushes and leaves. When a person or animal brushes by, ticks crawl up and look for a nice place to feed.

When outdoors, it’s best to stick to trails. Think twice before walking directly through brush or high grasses where ticks are most often found.

You can also avoid becoming a tick’s next meal by wearing protective clothing when out in nature. Instead of shorts and bare feet in sandals, wear long pants and socks. Tuck your pant legs into your socks so ticks can’t crawl up from your feet.

For added protection, use a chemical repellent with DEET, permethrin or picaridin.

Shower after being outdoors as soon as possible. This one simple step can really reduce the risk of Lyme disease.

When you’ve been outdoors, check yourself, your children, and your pets daily for ticks.

What To Do If You’ve Been Bitten By A Tick

Some people never notice they’ve been bitten, but later become ill. Signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease include:

  • A circular rash that forms at the site of the bite. It may look like a bullseye. It’s important to realize not everyone who has contracted Lyme disease will have a rash. In fact, 20-30% of people may not have a rash.
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headaches

Longer-term symptoms may include multiple skin rashes, extreme fatigue, general weakness, heart palpitations and arthritic pain.

When diagnosed early, Lyme disease is very treatable. But too many people don’t relate symptoms to being bitten by a tick.

With a little tick-awareness, we can stay safer in the outdoors this summer.


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