Lyme Disease is a serious disease that is spread by the bite of infected black-legged ticks. Lyme Disease can have many symptoms, ranging from flu-like symptoms in its early stages or, if left untreated, to more serious symptoms affecting the central nervous system, brain or even heart. In Canada, the risk of Lyme Disease is highest from May through August.
Learn how to protect yourself, what to look for, and what to do if you or your child shows signs of Lyme Disease.
Ways to prevent Lyme Disease
- Avoid tick-infested areas
- Dress appropriately and remove attached ticks
- Use insect repellent
- Reduce the number of ticks in the environment
- Remove attached ticks as soon as possible
Ticks in Ontario
In Ontario, black-legged ticks are more commonly found in areas along the north shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River. However, black-legged tick populations are increasing and expanding across the province. Ticks especially like woodland areas with rodent, bird and deer populations. They are often found in leaf litter or low shrubs at the edge of forested habitats, such as hiking trails, but can also be found in small wooded areas of backyards.
In Ontario, currently identified risk areas for Lyme Disease are:
- Along the north shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario
- Parts of Thousand Islands National Park
- Kingston and surrounding area along the St. Lawrence Valley to the border with Quebec and northeast towards Ottawa
- Northwestern Ontario in the region of Lake of the Woods
- Pinery Park on the shore of Lake Huron
Public Health Ontario updates the Lyme Disease surveillance map each year. While the potential is low, it is possible for people to encounter black-legged ticks, or to be infected with Lyme Disease from the bite of an infected black-legged tick, almost anywhere in the province.
In general, black-legged ticks infected with Lyme Disease are much more common in the United States along the Atlantic seaboard from Maine to Virginia and in Minnesota and Wisconsin than they are in Ontario.
Tick Stats in Perth County
|2013||All positive black legged ticks were travel related|
|2015||All positive black legged ticks were travel related|
If you are going outdoors, protect yourself
Outdoor activities like golfing, camping, fishing or hiking can increase the risk for tick bites. Here are the ways to protect yourself and your children:
- Wear light-coloured clothing to spot ticks easier.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants, and closed-toed shoes. For extra protection, tuck your pants into your socks.
- Ticks thrive in wet environments – before washing outdoor clothing, put them in a dryer on high heat for 60 minutes to kill any ticks.
- Try to avoid shrubs or grassy areas. Ticks are usually found low to the ground.
- Use insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin. Read the manufacturer’s instructions before applying the repellent on yourself or children.
- Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to remove loose ticks.
- Do a daily full-body and clothing check for ticks, paying close attention to the groin, navel, armpits, scalp and behind ears and knees. Young black-legged ticks can be as small as a poppy seed, so look carefully. Check your children and pets for ticks as well.
If you find a tick on yourself
Black-legged ticks are very small and hard to see. If you find a tick attached to yourself or your children, do the following:
- Using clean tweezers, carefully grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull slowly upward, but try not to twist or crush the tick. Do not use your fingers.
- Once the tick is removed, wash the area where you were bitten with soap and water or disinfect with alcohol or hand sanitizer.
- If parts of the tick’s mouth break off and remain in your skin, remove them with tweezers. If this is difficult to do, leave them alone and let the skin heal.
- If possible, save the tick in a zip-lock bag or pill bottle. Record the location and date of the bite. You can bring the tick to the Health Unit for identification.
- If it is identified as a black-legged tick, it will be sent for Lyme Disease testing.
- If you develop symptoms of Lyme Disease in the weeks after being bitten, contact your health care provider right away.
Note: Do not burn the tick or use nail polish, petroleum jelly or another substance. These methods may inject Lyme Disease bacteria into the skin.
Know the Symptoms
Symptoms of early Lyme Disease usually begin between three days and one month after being bitten by an infected tick. Prompt antibiotic treatment is effective.
Early symptoms of Lyme Disease may include fever, headache, muscle and joint fatigue, spasms, numbness or tingling, facial paralysis, fatigue, swollen glands and an expanding red rash called erythema migrans. The rash looks like a red bull’s eye. However, not all patients with Lyme Disease will develop the bull’s eye rash. If you develop these symptoms or feel like you have the flu, see your health care provider right away. Be sure to tell them if you have been camping, fishing or have been active outdoors.
If left untreated, late Lyme disease symptoms may include cardiac symptoms such as heart palpitations, arthritic symptoms, extreme fatigue, general weakness and central and peripheral nervous system disorders.
Reduce the number of ticks in the environment
- Thin trees and shrubs to reduce an area’s suitability for ticks.
- Create tick ‘unfriendly’ zones around your yard, for example by having a raised deck, keeping grass short and removing leaf litter, brush and weeds.
- If living in an area where ticks occur, build a fence to keep deer off your property.
- Create a border of gravel or wooded chips one metre or wider around your yard if you’re next to a wooded area or an area with tall grasses.
- Move children’s swing sets, playground equipment and sandboxes away from wooded areas. Consider placing equipment on a wood chip or mulch foundation.
Lyme Disease Videos by the Perth District Health Unit
- Government of Canada – Lyme Disease
- Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care – Lyme Disease in Ontario
- Ontario Ministry of Labour – Protecting Outdoor Workers
- Public Health Ontario – Lyme Disease
- Public Health Ontario – Ontario Lyme Disease 2018, Estimated Risk Area
- Public Health Ontario – Vector-Borne Disease Surveillance Reports