As the number of ticks slowly make their way eastward across Canada, health authorities are warning that Canadians need to become more aware of the dangers presented by ticks. Ticks carry Lyme disease and Rock Mountain Spotted Fever. Both illnesses can be treated—if caught early on.
“The bite itself may be nothing more than a minor annoyance,” said Dr. Nick Jourils, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “It’s the disease that insects carry that can become a serious medical problem.”
Stopping bugs from biting with these simple precautions:
- Wear insect repellent, especially at night. DEET is the most effective but for children and babies the repellent should contain less than 10 percent DEET.
- Routinely check your body
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants near wooded areas.
- Avoid going on during peak hours – dawn and dusk – when insects are more common
The Public Health Agency of Canada warns that symptoms of Lyme disease usually come in three stages.
Stage One: The first sign of infection is usually a circular rash called erythema migrans or EM. This rash occurs in about 70-80 percent % of infected persons and begins at the site of the tick bite after a delay of three days to one month. Other symptoms may include:
- muscle and joint pain
- swollen lymph nodes.
Stage Two: If Lyme disease goes undetected, the second stage can last up to several months with these possible symptoms:
- central and peripheral nervous system disorders
- multiple skin rashes
- arthritis and arthritic symptoms
- heart palpitations
- extreme fatigue and general weakness
Stage Three: If the infection continues to go untreated, the third stage of the disease can last months to years. Possible symptoms include chronic arthritis and neurological symptoms.
The Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation has an extenvise list of the symptoms to watch as well as a pictorial guide for the different varities of ticks found throughout the country and North America.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
While not as common as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is the most severe of tick-borne diseases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initials symptoms start from between five to 10 days of being bitten and may include:
- rash with small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots (macules) on the wrists, forearms, and ankles
- severe headache
- muscle pain
- lack of appetite
As the disease progresses symptoms include rash, abdominal pain, joint pain, diarrhea. If left untreated the disease can cause paralysis of the lower extremities, loss of bowel or bladder control, movement disorders, and language disorders.
The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control cautions against covering the tick with Vaseline (or grease) as well as applying heat or an open flame. Both these methods will not remove the tick. Instead follow the recommended method:
- Use tweezers or forceps to gently get a hold of the tick as close to the skin as possible. Don’t touch the tick with your hands.
- Without squeezing the tick, steadily lift it straight off the skin. Avoid jerking it out. Try to make sure that all of the tick is removed.
- Once the tick has been removed, clean the bite area with soap and water then disinfect the wound with antiseptic cream.
- Wash hands with soap and water.
- If possible, save the tick in a container with a tight fitting top. If the tick is alive, dampen a small cotton ball and put it into the tick container to keep the tick alive. (A live tick is necessary for culturing the spirochete which causes Lyme Disease.) Label the container with date, name and address of person bitten, your family physician, body part bitten, what type of animal the tick was from and the location.
Contact the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) at (204) 789-2000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out where to send your tick for testing.
When to see the Doctor
If the tick has buried itself deep into your skin and has been on you for several hours or even a day or two, get your doctor to remove the tick. Don’t force it off since you run the risk of leaving mouthparts behind, which can cause infection.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to sign up for our weekly health newsletter and receive more articles on health and well-being.