What’s the tick situation in the Rouge?
Rouge National Urban Park
Throughout Rouge National Urban Park, from April to November, black-legged (deer) ticks are most active. These are the species of tick that may be infected with Lyme disease and there is a chance of being exposed to the disease if bitten. Lyme disease is a serious illness; however, it's easy to prevent and treat when caught early.
Where are ticks found?
Ticks usually live in woods or tall grasslands and are active when temperatures are as low as 4C. Ticks infected with the Lyme disease bacterium can spread the disease when they feed on blood from their host. Ticks cannot fly or jump – they hang onto small bushes or tall grasses and are usually found close to the ground. They require a blood meal to survive. They wait for an animal or person to pass nearby and when they make contact, the ticks climb on and attach themselves to the skin to feed.
Who's at risk?
Any person who spends a lot time outdoors (hiking, camping, birding, fishing, etc.), especially in grassy or wooded areas may be at risk. Ticks will attach themselves to wildlife and domestic pets too. Only approximately 20-25% of blacklegged ticks in most of Ontario are infected by Lyme disease, however this can be up to 50% in hot spots. If you have been bitten by a tick it is always important to see your doctor to be tested for Lyme disease.
What you can do to stay safe from ticks in the Rouge:
- Stay on official trails - as much as possible, avoid contact with low bushes and long grasses. For example, if hiking or walking, stay in the centre of the trail.
- Wear protective clothing to prevent ticks from attaching to your skin. Wear closed toed shoes, long sleeve shirts that fit tightly around the wrist, and long-legged pants tucked into your socks or boots. *Note – there are lots of options for light weight and moisture wicking clothing at local hardware stores and outdoor equipment stores to avoid overheating while wearing long sleeves.
- Wear light coloured clothing to help you find any ticks more easily.
- Use insect repellents containing DEET. Apply to both clothes and skin. Always read the label and follow instructions for use.
- If possible, avoid contact with low bushes and long grasses. For example, if hiking or walking, stay in the centre of the trail.
- Check for ticks on and under clothing, especially after being in areas where ticks may live.
- Keep a pair of fine tipped tweezers or a tick key and a small bottle of hand sanitizer handy for proper tick removal and treatment.
- A daily skin inspection greatly reduces the risk of infection as ticks may take several hours to two days to attach to the skin and feed. Check areas including armpits, in and around hair, navel, groin, and behind the ears and knees. Also check children and pets.
- Wash clothes promptly and put them in the dryer with heat to help kill any ticks that may remain.
- Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to wash away loose ticks.
What to do if you find a tick on you
- A tick needs to bite you to infect you. If you have just found a tick crawling on your clothing or skin, you are not at risk of Lyme Disease. If you find a tick crawling on you, drown it in rubbing alcohol to kill it.
- If the tick is embedded in your skin, use a tick key or tweezers to remove it. Ensure you remove the entire tick. Sterilize the area with rubbing alcohol and an over the counter topical antibiotic cream such as Polysporin.
- There is a common misconception that nail polish remover or petroleum jelly will kill a tick. This is not true; you must remove the tick manually.
- If a tick has been embedded for more than 24 hours, or you are unsure as to how long the tick has been there, go see your doctor to receive a treatment of antibiotics.
Signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease
Common symptoms of Lyme disease include fatigue, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, swollen glands and more. It may take up to 1-2 weeks to start showing symptoms and they will gradually worsen over time.
For more information on Lyme disease, blacklegged ticks, and how to protect yourself from tick bites while enjoying the outdoors, please visit the following websites:
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