Watch out for ticks this summer

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Tick - parasitic arachnid blood-sucking carrier of various diseases

Greg Newing

MRC PONTIAC AND MUNICIPALITY OF PONTIAC – As summer comes into full swing and people are spending more time outdoors, the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) has issued a reminder about the presence and prevention of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by a strain of bacteria that is transferred to humans through bites from an infected tick. While only a certain variety of tick can spread the disease, it is important to be vigilant as untreated bites can have serious health consequences, including fever, headaches and chronic fatigue. To prevent bites during tick season (May until November), the CISSSO recommends wearing a hat, close-toed shoes and long-sleeved clothing, as well as tucking your shirt under your belt and the cuffs of pants into socks or footwear while walking outdoors. Hikers are also encouraged to use a DEET or picaridin-based insect repellent and to avoid tall grass by staying on maintained trails.

After coming home from an outdoor activity, always check yourself, children and pets for ticks. If you find that a tick has attached, do not squish it or attempt or pull it off with your hands as this could cause some of the disease-causing bacteria to enter your bloodstream. Instead, slowly remove the tick with a pair of tweezers by grasping it as close to your skin as possible and gently pull it out. After removing the tick, store it in a tightly sealed container in your refrigerator and wash the area where the tick was attached thoroughly with soap and water. Keeping the tick is important because it will help a doctor or pharmacist determine the risk of infection.

Remember to also note the date and the part of your body where the tick was attached as well as where you were when bitten as this information will be useful when consulting a health professional.

To reduce the presence of ticks in or around your home, make sure to mow your lawn regularly and clear any brush, weeds, or dead leaves, especially near areas where children might be playing. You may also wish to create paths at least 3 metres wide using wood chips or gravel between wooded areas, lawns, patios and play areas on your property.

If you are bitten by a tick or think you may have been bitten call Info-Santé at 811 or reach out to your pharmacist who can help assess whether you need any preventative treatment. If you start to feel any symptoms within a month of being bitten such as redness at the site of the bite, fever, headaches, fatigue or a stiff neck, consult a physician immediately as early treatment can reduce both the length of the illness as well as the risk of any long-term complications.