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You’re bitten by a tick—do you know what to do?

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What are they?

The adult tick looks like a small, thin beetle that is brown and black in colour. Once the tick starts feeding, it will balloon up and take on a more rounded shape. In the nymph stage, a tick is no bigger than a pepper flake, and more difficult to detect.  It is often at this stage that most people are bitten unaware.

An adult tick

Where are they found?

Ticks are typically more common in the United States, climate change is moving them northwards to Ontario. The St. Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands in eastern Ontario are hotspots right now. The ticks are carried by small rodents, foxes, birds, and deer.

Lyme disease from tick bites has steadily increased from 144 cases in 2009 to 992 in 2016, according to Statistics Canada. 

Protect yourself from being bitten

The best thing to do is to avoid any areas where ticks have been spotted. If you are outside in an area where ticks have been spotted, make sure you wear long sleeves and pants that are tucked into your socks. Do a full-body check when you come in from being outside. Ticks like to plant themselves in moist parts of your body such as armpits, behind your ears and even in your hair. It’s a good idea to take a shower too.

If you do spot a tick, try to pull it off with a pair of tweezers. Try not to squeeze, by pulling it straight out. Clean the bite area with soap and water, antiseptic or alcohol. It’s a good idea to save the tick in a sealed container with a piece of moist paper towel so that your doctor or public health unit can identify it.

What to do if you are bitten

Tick bites are painless but they may cause you to contract Lyme disease.  If the infection is caught within a few days, antibiotics usually will allow you to recover fully.  If it is left untreated for too long, it may not be possible to cure the disease, only manage it.  The disease can attack the central nervous system, affecting your muscles and joints, brain, or heart.

Lyme disease symptoms can appear any time between three days to one month after being bitten. Symptoms are flu-like with fever headache, joint pain, and fatigue. The most obvious symptom is a rash that looks like a bull’s eye. Take a photo of the rash, because it disappears quickly. The photo will help with s speedy diagnosis.

If you’ve been bitten, seek medical advice as soon as possible.

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