Tick tock, tick tock… it’s that time of year. The ticks came out later this year due to the cold spring but they’re around now. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying the beauty forests and meadows of Albert County. With a few precautions, we can explore the wild areas of our county and protect ourselves from Lyme disease and other tick-related problems.
Ticks can latch onto shoes, socks or pant legs while people are walking through tall grass. The ticks then crawl upwards until they find a moist, warm fleshy spot, such as behind the knees or ears, or in the groin, armpits or hair. They embed their heads into your skin and start feeding on your blood. They will stay there for days, perhaps weeks, until they are fully engorged with blood and then fall off. During this time, they grow larger and also can regurgitate their saliva into your blood; this is how Lyme disease can be spread. Note, however, that only a minority of black-legged ticks (some say 10% in Albert County) carry Lyme disease and even if one this bites you, it takes 36 hours of feeding before it will transmit the disease.
Public Health NB provides the following tips on how to protect yourself from ticks and Lyme disease. Note that the Albert County Pharmacy in Riverside-Albert carries both tick spray and tick removal kits.
Protect Yourself Against Tick Bites
- Avoid areas where ticks live. Blacklegged ticks are usually found within and along the edges of wooded or forested areas, and in areas with woody shrubs and vegetation like tall grasses. Walk in the middle of trails and avoid contact with tall grasses, woody shrubs, and leaf litter.
- Use insect repellents containing DEET or Icaradin that are effective against ticks and approved by Health Canada. Repellents may be applied to clothing as well as exposed skin but should not be applied to skin underneath clothing. Always read and follow label directions.
- Clothing treated with permethrin can repel ticks and gives protection through several washings. Do not use permethrin on skin.
- Cover up to keep ticks off your body. Wear long socks, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and tuck shirts into pants to keep ticks on the outside of your clothing. Light-colored clothing will help you spot ticks more easily.
- Make your yard less attractive to ticks. Remove leaves, clear brush, and tall grasses around your house and the edges of lawns. Keep the grass mowed, and place playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees and in a sunny location.
Check For Ticks
- Don’t let ticks hitchhike inside on your clothing. Examine your clothing, outdoor gear, and pets and remove ticks before coming indoors.
- Put dry outdoor clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any remaining ticks. If the clothes are damp, additional drying time is needed. If you need to wash your clothes, hot water is recommended. If the clothes cannot be washed in hot water, tumble dry on low heat for 90 minutes or high heat for 60 minutes.
- Shower or bathe within two hours after being outdoors to help find ticks that are crawling on you and have not attached yet.
- Check your whole body and your child’s body after being outdoors and remove any ticks you find. Check the scalp and neck, in and around the ears, the back and under the arms, inside the belly button and around the waist, pelvic area and between the legs, and behind the knees. Blacklegged ticks are very small and difficult to see so look carefully. Use a mirror to view all parts of your body. A magnifying glass can help you spot ticks.
- Remove any attached ticks immediately. Removing ticks within 24 hours after attachment (tick bite) usually prevents infection. Use fine tipped tweezers or one of the many available tick removal devices. With tweezers grasp the tick's head as close to the skin surface as possible. Pull slowly upward with steady, even pressure. Do not twist or crush the tick. Wash the site of attachment with soap and water, or disinfect with alcohol or household antiseptic.
- If you have trouble removing the tick, or if you can’t reach the part of your body where the tick is attached, ask a family member or friend to help.
- Try to save the tick that bit you in a sealed container and record the date of the bite. If you develop symptoms bring it to your medical appointment as it may help the doctor in their assessment of your illness.
- Avoid removals such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to burn the tick.
- If you are bitten by a tick, watch for early symptoms of Lyme disease or other tick-borne illness. Early symptoms may include Fever, Aches and Pains (headache, fatigue, muscle pain, and/or joint pain), and Rash (a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans may occur with Lyme disease). Symptoms of Lyme disease may begin as soon as three days after a tick bite or can be as long as 30 days later.
- See your family doctor if you develop a rash or have flu-like symptoms. Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics and early treatment almost always results in full recovery.