Lyme disease is a potentially serious illness spread to humans by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (also known as a deer tick). These ticks cannot fly, but settle on tall grasses and bushes until they attach themselves to a person or animal passing by.
The bacterium that causes Lyme disease has been found in blacklegged ticks throughout Ontario, including Huron County.
A tick must be attached and feeding for at least 24-36 hours before the tick will start to transmit the bacteria, so early detection and removal is important.
The best way to protect yourself from Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites. You can do this by:
- Wearing light-coloured clothing. It makes ticks easier to spot.
- Wearing closed footwear and socks, a long sleeved shirt and long pants. Tuck your pants into your socks.
- Using a tick repellant that has been approved by Health Canada, following the manufacturer’s directions.
- Searching your body for ticks at least once a day if you have been in an area where you might get bitten by ticks. Pay special attention to the scalp, groin and armpits. Remember to check children and pets as well.
- Shower after returning from the outdoors to wash off any loose ticks.
- Put your clothes into a dryer on high heat for 60 minutes to kill any possible ticks.
If you find a tick
If you do locate a tick on your body, here’s how to remove it safely:
- Use tweezers.
- Grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible.
- Pull it straight out, gently but firmly.
- Save the tick in a jar or screw-top bottle if you can and take it to your doctor or your local health unit, where it will be submitted for identification and testing if needed.
If you have been in an area known to contain blacklegged ticks or have been bitten by a tick, watch for the following symptoms:
- Muscle and joint pains
- Skin rash in the shape of a bull’s eye
If you have any of these symptoms, let your healthcare provider know immediately.
Lyme disease is not transmitted from person-to-person. However, dogs and cats can carry the ticks into your home or yard, potentially placing people at risk of infection. Speak with your veterinarian on how you can protect your pets from ticks. Check your pets for ticks periodically.
Doris is a Huron County resident who stays positive despite the challenges of living with Lyme disease.
Lyn is retired and lives in Huron County. He was diagnosed with Lyme disease in early 2004.
If you have a question please call us at 519.482.3416 or toll-free at 1.877.837.6143. Ask to speak to a public health inspector on the Environmental Health team.