Has the fear of ticks kept you from soaking up the great outdoors this summer? We spoke with Dr. David Beresford, assistant professor in the Biology department at Trent University, to get a few facts straight on black-legged ticks.
(We are not public health professionals or experts on the subject of ticks. For any questions regarding tick safety or Lyme disease signs/symptoms, please contact Hastings-Prince Edward Public Health or check out the Government of Ontario website.)
MYTH: ALL TICKS CARRY LYME DISEASE.
There are other types of ticks out there, but black-legged ticks are the only kind in Ontario that consistently transmit Lyme disease.
MYTH: YOU CAN FEEL A TICK BITE.
No, you can’t feel it, so you have to look for it. To be on the safe side, as they can be quite small, check your entire body with special attention to your hairline, armpits and behind the knees.
MYTH: TICKS ARE A PROBLEM ANYWHERE THERE’S GRASS.
Don’t worry about short grass and trails. They will climb up stems of long grass and latch onto something that walks by. However, you shouldn’t let worry of ticks keep you indoors.
MYTH: TICKS TRANSMIT LYME IMMEDIATELY.
There’s a period of time, approximately 24 to 36 hours, before a tick transmits Lyme disease. The longer they’re on you, the more likely it is that they will transmit. If you suspect that you have bitten or have symptoms, contact your healthcare provider and/or local public health centre.
MYTH: REMOVE TICKS WITH A LIGHTER OR MATCH.
Not a good idea–besides the obvious risk of burning yourself, the mouth parts could still be inside you. Use tweezers and get them as close to your skin as possible to remove mouth parts. Pull upward with steady, even pressure and don’t twist.
FACT: YOU SHOULD CHECK PETS FOR TICKS.
There is a greater risk to pets because they are closer to the ground (and often wander off the path). When you stay on the trail, you are less likely to find ticks. Keep your eyes out on your dogs; check them often as ticks will hide in their fur so they’re less easy to find.
FACT: REGULAR BUG REPELLENT (WITH DEET) WORKS AGAINST TICKS.
Yes it does, however, if you walk through grass covered in dew, it will wash off. Reapply as necessary.