What is a tick and why is there so much talk about them this summer? Oh, this is going to be a fun blog! The short answer is that a tick is part of the arachnid family – yup, I said arachnid – which other than spiders, also includes scorpions and mites.
To my surprise, there are actually many kinds of ticks and they can be found almost everywhere in North America.
So I ask myself, if they are everywhere “Why all the fuss?” It’s most likely due to the fact that some do carry diseases that can be harmful to people and pets. And it could also be the media coverage of recent stars with Lyme disease such as Avril Lavigne and Ashley Olsen.
Let’s start with Lyme disease; it’s a bacterial infection spread only by infected blacklegged ticks. Here in Halton Region, blacklegged ticks are not common, however, many of us enjoy outdoor activities, including camping and hiking in surrounding Ontario parks where there is a small chance that you may get bitten.
What can you do to prevent tick bites? Start with being informed, rather than scared. Here are a few simple things you can do to help prevent tick bites:
- Stay on marked trails and walk in the centre of the trail.
- Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants (it’s easier to see a tick on light clothes).
- Wear shoes that cover your entire foot.
- Spray clothing and exposed skin with an insect repellent that contains Icaridin or DEET.
- Check your clothing and your entire body for any ticks (especially groin, armpits and hairline).
- Take a shower or bath within two hours of being outdoors.
If you do find a tick on yourself or your kids, do not panic. The risk of tick-borne disease in Halton is extremely low! Simply remove the tick and submit the tick to the Halton Region Health Department for testing.
Follow these steps:
- Use fine-tip tweezers and grasp the tick’s head as close to your skin as possible.
- Pull slowly until the tick is removed (be careful not to twist or crush the tick during removal).
- After removal, wash the area with soap and water.
- Store the tick in a container and call 311 to contact the Health Department for information on having the tick tested.
If you develop a rash or other symptoms such as muscle aches, fever or headache, be sure to visit your physician right away.
Well, I hope I haven’t scared anyone off from enjoying the great outdoors and our wonderful Canadian summer. Now that you have this information for staying safe and healthy, get out there and and be physically active with your family!
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.