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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is an infectious disease spread through the bite of infected ticks.

The risk of getting a tick bite starts when the weather warms up in the spring, through until the fall. Ticks can also be active in the winter, if the winter is mild and there is not much snow. However, the greatest risk occurs during the spring and summer months.

Blacklegged ticks are most often found in forests as well as overgrown areas between woods and open spaces. Because tick populations are spreading, it is possible to be bitten outside of these locations.

The greatest risk of acquiring Lyme disease occurs where populations of ticks that carry the bacteria (B. burgdorferi) that causes Lyme disease have become established.  In Ontario, there are currently a number of identified risk areas for Lyme disease.

The best way to protect against Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites.  Here are some ways to protect yourself if you venture into wooded or forested areas within risk areas for Lyme disease:

•  Wear light coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants to spot ticks more easily.
•  Tuck your shirt into your pants, and pull your socks over your pant legs.
•  Use bug spray containing DEET or Icaridin on your skin and clothing (always follow the directions on the label).
•  Walk on cleared paths or walkways.
•  Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to facilitate a prompt tick check and to remove ticks that have not attached yet.
•  Do a daily full-body check for ticks on yourself and your children, especially in the hair, under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs and around the waist.
•  If you find an attached tick, remove it with tweezers immediately.  Removing it within 24-36 hours can help prevent infection.
•  Do a tick check on your outdoor gear and your pets as they could carry ticks inside your home.
•  Put dry outdoor clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any remaining ticks. If your clothes are damp, additional drying time is needed. If you need to wash your clothes first, 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.

Removing ticks within 24-36 hours after the tick bite usually prevents infection. You can remove a tick that has latched onto you by following these steps:

1.  Using clean tweezers, grasp the head as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull straight out. Try not to twist or crush the tick.
2.  If the mouthparts break off and remain in the skin, remove them with tweezers or, if you are unable to remove them easily, leave them alone and let the skin heal. Consult your healthcare provider.
3.  Wash the bite area and your hands with soap and water or disinfect with alcohol hand sanitizer.
4.  Try to save the tick that bit you in a sealed container and record the date of the bite. Bring it to your medical appointment as it may help the doctor in their assessment of your illness.
5.  Ticks can be disposed of in household garbage once they are dead, and they can be killed by drowning them in rubbing alcohol or by freezing for several hours. Avoid squashing ticks with exposed fingers.
6.  Don't try to remove the tick by using nail polish, petroleum jelly or heat to burn the tick.

Contact your local public health authority for details on the tick identification and testing program available in your area/how to submit a tick for testing.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can be different from person to person.  Early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease usually start three to 30 days after you have been bitten by an infected blacklegged tick. Most people experience mild, flu-like symptoms soon after being bitten, while a small number may have more serious symptoms, sometimes weeks after the bite.  If left untreated, more severe symptoms may occur and can last from months to years.

To learn more about Lyme disease or download free resources, visit: Canada.ca/LymeDisease

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