Kitchener-Waterloo

It's tick season again. Here's what you need to know

As restrictions are being gradually loosened and people return to activities such as hiking, residents are also being reminded that it’s time to check for ticks again.

An expert in ticks and tick-borne diseases provides information to help you through the season

Fall is the prime season for adult black-legged ticks, says Katie Clow, assistant professor at University of Guelph. (Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images)

Many people have spent their spring largely indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But as restrictions ease and certain areas re-open for hiking and camping, people are being reminded to keep an eye out for ticks. 

"The most important thing to know is where you're going to find ticks, so you can avoid that habitat," Katie Clow, assistant professor at University of Guelph and expert in ticks and tick-borne diseases, told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

Black-legged ticks tend to stay inside forested areas, especially in bushy areas.

"They're pretty lazy, they just sit there and wait for something to come along," she said.

Clow recommended hikers stay on marked trails away from forested areas. That's where ticks lie in wait, she said. 

She also said hikers should: 

  • Cover up. This ensures you have less exposed skin for ticks to bite. 
  • Wear light-coloured clothing. That way you can spot a tick if it lands on you. 
  • Use DEET. While it's not 100 per cent effective, it is a good deterrent. 
  • Check all parts of your body for ticks when you get home. Ticks like to hide in warm, moist places.
  • Check pets for ticks as well.

Lyme disease risk

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by a bite from the deer tick or black-legged tick. Lyme disease symptoms can include fever, headache, flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes and muscle and joint pains for up to a week with no obvious cause.

Symptoms can begin three to 30 days after a tick bite. Some patients get a very red round or oval rash  between four and six inches in size.

Clow said the risk of Lyme disease can vary depending on the geographic region. Areas with established tick populations can be especially risky, she said. 

She said the best way to understand where the risk is highest, is by checking Public Health Ontario's Lyme disease risk map.

Clow said it's important to check yourself for ticks soon after returning home from an outdoor trip. Removing ticks quickly can reduce the risk of Lyme disease, she said. 

If you are bitten by a tick or if you find one on your pet, you can submit photos to the website etick.ca and they will advise you of the species.

"If [you] know what species it is that's a really good way to then engage with your physician and to figure out what the next step should be," Clow said.

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