May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month

Prevent tick bites, protect against the disease

Share Adjust Comment Print

The warmer weather is coming and people will be heading outdoors to hike, bike, and go camping. May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month across the province, and ticks will become active when temperatures reach above 7°C. “If you’re enjoying the outdoors this spring and summer, the best way to protect yourself against Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites,” says Stephanie Carlisle, Public Health Inspector.

Lyme disease is a serious disease that is spread by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Human cases have been on the rise in Ontario since 2009. In 2018, fewer than five cases of Lyme disease in local residents were reported to the Perth District Health Unit.

Symptoms of early Lyme disease usually begin between 3 and 32 days after being bitten by an infected tick. Early symptoms of Lyme disease may include: fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue and an expanding red rash (especially one that looks like a red bull’s eye). Prompt antibiotic treatment is effective. If left untreated, late Lyme Disease symptoms may include cardiac symptoms (such as heart palpitations), arthritic symptoms, extreme fatigue and general weakness, and central and peripheral nervous system disorders.

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

The risk of Lyme disease is higher in areas where there are established populations of infected blacklegged ticks. In Ontario, some areas include: Pinery Provincial Park, Long Point Provincial Park, Turkey Point Provincial Park, Point Pelee National Park, and the St. Lawrence Islands National Park. Check www.pdhu.on.ca/LymeDisease for a 2019 risk area map in Ontario. “If you are travelling to the risk areas on the map this summer, it’s important to check for ticks regularly,” advises Carlisle.

Residents who spend time outdoors are reminded to protect themselves against tick bites:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and closed-toe shoes
  • Pull your socks over your pant legs to prevent ticks crawling up your legs
  • Wear light-coloured clothing to spot ticks more easily
  • Use insect repellent with DEET or Icaridin on clothing as well as on exposed skin. Always read and follow label directions
  • Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to remove ticks that can be on your skin but not yet attached
  • Do a daily full-body check for ticks. Young blacklegged ticks can be as small as a poppy seed, so look carefully. Check your children and pets for ticks as well.

Comments