Outdoors in Ontario: Know About Ticks and Lyme Disease

There’s an awful lot of “outdoors” in Ontario. And good weather leads to camping, hiking, picnics or even a day at the beach. Just a little bit of preparation will make sure that Lyme disease doesn’t sideline your summer outdoor adventures.

Lyme disease is spread by the bite of blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks). These ticks cannot fly, but settle on tall grasses and bushes until they attach themselves to a person or animal passing by. Lyme disease can have many symptoms, ranging from flu-like symptoms in its early stages or, if left untreated, to more serious symptoms affecting the central nervous system, brain or even heart.

While many have not heard of this disease, Lyme is gaining attention as health officials have seen an increase in cases acquired within Ontario and an increase of reported cases in the United States. In Ontario, this increase is due to the tick population expanding into new areas of the province.

Lyme disease bacteria have been found in ticks from areas throughout Ontario, but are primarily found in areas along the north shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence River. They have also been found in provincial parks such as Long Point, Turkey Point, and Rondeau, as well as Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area, Point Pelee National Park, St. Lawrence Islands National Park and Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area.

The key to avoid getting Lyme disease is to prevent the ticks from biting by:

  • Wearing light-coloured clothing. It makes ticks easier to spot.
  • Wearing closed footwear and socks, a long sleeved shirt and long pants. Tuck your pants into your socks.
  • Using a tick repellent that has DEET, following the manufacturer’s directions.
  • If in an area where you might get bitten by ticks, search your body for ticks at least once a day. Pay special attention to the scalp, groin and armpits.
  • If you do locate a tick on your body, use tweezers to remove it. Grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible. Pull it straight out, gently but firmly. Save the tick alive in a jar or screw-top bottle if you can. Take it to your doctor, or public health unit for testing.

If you have been in any of the areas known to contain Lyme disease carrying ticks, watch out for the following symptoms: fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, fatigue and a skin rash in the shape of a bull’s eye. If you are exhibiting these symptoms, let your doctor know immediately.