Beware: Risk of ticks
With summer just around the bend, we here at Wakefield Trails are seeing more and more hikers populate our trails. We have deemed it a good time to remind all our trail users and the public about the risk of ticks. There is a lot of mixed information on the diseases ticks carry, where ticks can be found, how a tick bite should be treated, etc. We hope to provide you with reliable tick related information.
Ticks are small, eight-legged bugs. They can range in size from as small as a pin’s head to as large as a pencil eraser. They bite animals and humans, staying attached to feed off their blood. A tick bite itself won’t hurt, but the critters are a vector for various diseases including Lyme. According to Quebec Health, up to 12 species of tick have been identified in our province, but the only species that can transmit Lyme disease is the Ixodes Scapularis tick, also called the deer tick or blacklegged tick. Quebec Health also confirms that there is an established population of this species in the Outaouais region.
To avoid tick troubles, there are a few simple preventative measures that can be taken. They live mainly in woodlands and tall grasses. To avoid getting bitten, it is advised to stay on trails when hiking or to wear long sleeves and long pants when walking through areas with tall grass or lots of brush and shrubbery. Insect repellant is also effective at deterring the bugs. Even when taking these precautions, it is always a good idea to check your body for ticks after outdoor excursions; look farther than just exposed skin.
If you do find a tick bite, the best course of action is to remove the tick as soon as possible. Remove a tick by grasping it with tweezers or a tick remover as close to your skin as possible, and gently pulling it straight out. After the tick is removed, disinfect or wash the area well with soap and water. Quebec Health notes that Lyme disease usually takes more than 24 hours to transmit. Before that, the chances are very low.
If you fear that a tick has been on your body longer than 24 hours, certain symptoms of Lyme disease can appear between three to 30 days after being bitten. The most common symptom is described by Quebec Health as “a rash [that] develops in 60 per cent to 80 per cent of cases of infection, but is not always noticed. It is present for at least 48 hours and expands rapidly until it is over five centimetres in diameter. The rash may be circular or look like a bull’s eye. It is sometimes very pale and its edges may be poorly defined.”
Fatigue, fever, and muscle aches are also possible symptoms. If any of these symptoms apply or you have reason to believe you may have contracted Lyme, call Info-Santé 811 or see a doctor. If identified quickly and treated, people who contract Lyme usually experience a quick and full recovery from the disease. You can also send in a tick to a provincial public health laboratory to identify the species and any diseases it may be carrying.
For more information, visit Health Canada and search ‘ticks’.
Thomas Landon is a summer student from Chelsea working for Wakefield Trails.