Keep Ticks From Bugging You This Summer

May 25, 2015

Summertime can present dangers as well as fun for families who head outdoors to enjoy the warm summer weather. Here's how to keep your children's summer adventures safe, even when the bugs are biting.

Ticks and Lyme disease

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a serious illness caused by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick. Ticks are small, ranging from the size of a poppy seed to a pea. The size of the tick varies depending on its age and whether it has fed recently. The bite is usually painless so you may not know that you have been bitten.

Where are Ticks Found?

  • Blacklegged ticks are most often found in forests and the overgrown areas between the woods and open spaces.
  • They are most abundant in the following Canadian locations:
  • Southern British Columbia,Southeastern Manitoba, Southern, eastern and northwestern Ontario, Southern Quebec, Southern New Brunswick and Parts of Nova Scotia. In the US the risk is highest in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic (from northeastern Virginia to Maine), in north central states (mostly Wisconsin and Minnesota), and on the West Coast (especially northern California).

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

  • April to September, when ticks are most active, is prime time for Lyme disease.
  • The symptoms of Lyme disease are the same in people of all ages.
  • Initial symptoms differ from person to person, which makes Lyme disease very difficult to diagnose. Some people may have no symptoms at all. Others may experience mild symptoms like fever or a skin rash soon after being bitten, while others may suffer severe symptoms, but not for weeks after the bite.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can include one or a combination of the following with varying degrees of severity:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever or chills
  • Headache
  • Spasms, or weakness
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Skin rash

How to Protect Yourself

As you enjoy the summer outdoor activities, especially ones in wooded areas, remember to protect your family against tick bites by taking these simple steps:

  • Wear closed-toe shoes, long-sleeved shirts and pants
  • Pull socks over pant legs to prevent ticks from crawling up legs
  • Wear light-coloured clothes to spot ticks easier
  • Use effective insect repellents that contain DEET (active ingredient to keep bugs away) or Icaridin. Most paediatricians recommend using products with 30 percent or less of these ingredients on kids.
  • Repellents can be applied to clothing as well as exposed skin. Always read and follow label directions.
  • Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to wash away loose ticks
  • Do a daily “full body” check for ticks on yourself, children and pets. Ticks gravitate to warm parts of the body, like underarms, groin, and hair, so checking will take a few minutes

What to Do If You Find a Tick

  • Do not panic if you find a tick on your child. There is little to no danger if the tick has been on the skin 12-36 hours. Even then, not all ticks have been infected with Lyme disease.
  • Home remedies almost never work for removing ticks. So ignore suggestions about applying petroleum jelly, fingernail polish, or a hot match to the end of the tick.
  • The best way to remove a tick is to pull it out gently with tweezers. Grasp the bug as close to where it's connected to the skin as you can, and slowly lift it away from the skin.
  • Try not to squeeze the tick's body, which may release the blood back into your child's bloodstream if the tick is engorged. And don't twist or jerk the tweezers or you may break off the tick's body, leaving the head behind, which can lead to infection.
  • Once you've removed the tick, wash the bite area and your hands with soap and water, then apply an antiseptic lotion. Dispose of the tick in the toilet or by putting it in a plastic bag and then in the garbage.
  • Bathing when you get inside can also help you find ticks and remove them.
  • Additionally, you can tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill any remaining ticks.

As with anything potentially dangerous for your children your best defence is prevention through knowledge. Be aware of the danger, follow protection guidelines and be vigilant about checking for ticks on your children and animals daily. Remember, the tick must be attached for well over a day to be dangerous, so do not panic, and enjoy your summer!