It’s a great time of year to enjoy the outdoors, but we need to be aware and careful in areas where there may be black-legged ticks (also called deer ticks). These are very small ticks – sometimes as small as the period at the end of this sentence. These ticks can carry the germ that causes a bacterial infection called Lyme disease. Deer ticks are found across Nova Scotia, so it’s important to be vigilant and take simple preventative measures.
Follow these steps to help protect against ticks, especially in grassy, wooded or shrub covered areas:
- Apply insect repellents containing DEET or Icaridin to exposed skin and clothes. Follow directions on the package carefully.
- Wear light colored long sleeved shirts and pants, closed shoes, and tuck pant legs into socks.
- Keep lawns mowed short.
- Put playground equipment in sunny, dry places away from wooded areas, yard edges, and trees.
- Check your whole body for ticks and, when possible, take a bath or shower within two hours of coming indoors. This makes it easier to find ticks and washes away loose ones.
If you find ticks, here’s how to remove them safely:
- Carefully grasp the tick with tweezers as close to the skin as possible.
- Gently and slowly pull the tick straight out. Do not jerk, twist or squeeze it.
- Clean and disinfect the site with soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide.
- Dispose of the tick in a sealed plastic bag and put in the garbage.
- Do not burn, squeeze or coax a tick’s mouth parts from your skin using other methods.
The first symptom of Lyme disease is usually a rash that may look like a bull’s eye target near the tick bite. The rash can appear anywhere from 3-30 days after the bite. Symptoms such as fever, headache, tiredness, stiff neck, pain and swelling in the joints and general body aches and pains may develop. Symptoms may appear over a period of months. If symptoms appear, it is very important to contact a health care provider. Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics.
To access a great educational video for kids about how to protect against tick bites, and to learn more about Lyme disease and black-legged ticks, visit http://www.novascotia.ca/hpp/cdpc/lyme.asp – or call your local Public Health office at 902.543.0850.