Tips on staying safe during tick season
It’s time for some tick talk.
Now that the snow has finally melted and Manitobans are getting out an about, some are venturing into wooded or grassy areas. And that’s a problem.
U of M entomologist Kateryn Rochon cautions that tick season is upon us, and we should be vigilant.
This week, the Manitoba Lyme Disease Group reported it had found 13 blacklegged ticks on a single survey of a riverbank along the Seine River, and that has caused some alarm because that particular species of tick can carry Lyme disease and other serious conditions.
In an interview with CBC, Rochon suggested:
“From now on until next winter what you should do is when you go out, especially if you are going to walk a pet or go out for a hike anywhere where there is a little bit of vegetation, you want to have long pants and closed shoes.”
Rochon explains this is because blacklegged ticks are not the larger ones most campers are used to finding after a hike, but are smaller and look like “black sesame seeds.”
While we have had an early spring, Rochon does not think the emergence of blacklegged ticks is necessarily due to climate change.
She explains: “The ticks are active as soon as the snow melts, and climate change would affect that. Now if this particular season is an example of that, that’s highly debatable. Climate is not the same thing as weather. This season’s weather is certainly related.”
Even though some people have concerns about using certain chemicals on their bodies, Rochon recommends using DEET as a preventive measure when walking in fields and wooded areas.
“DEET is considered safe by Health Canada, so I have no problem recommending it,” she says. “There is a newly approved chemical now available in Canada, Icaridin, that is very effective against mosquitoes and ticks. There are no restrictions on age of use for this product, unlike DEET, which is not recommended for children under two years of age in Canada. There are no such restrictions in the USA.”
So what should you do if you find a tick on you? Rochon has some practical and careful advice:
“If the tick is not attached, remove it before it does. There’s a UM video I did about how to check yourself for ticks.
“If (the tick) is attached, remove it with fine-nosed tweezers. Then disinfect the bite area and mark your calendar so you remember when you’ve had a bite. Then monitor yourself, your children or your pet for symptoms of infection for 30 days after the removal of the tick. Symptoms of infection are general flu-like symptoms, headache, fever, and in the case of Lyme disease, may include a rash that is at least five cm in diameter and which expands over time.”
Rochon also says it’s a good idea to keep the tick in case you do develop symptoms, in which case the tick can be tested for pathogens as well.
For more advice on ticks, check out our series of videos.