How to help avoid ticks and prevent Lyme diseasePersonal health · Apr 13, 2022
The good weather is finally here! You may be dreaming of escape and the great outdoors. Nature is awakening all around you, but unfortunately so are ticks. Ticks can be found in wooded areas or grasslands, and may be found in places you may find yourself hiking or walking this summer.
There are some precautions you can take to help avoid ticks and prevent Lyme disease while enjoying outdoor activities with peace of mind.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of a tick infected with a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. It is named after Lyme, a town in Connecticut in the United States where the disease was first described in 1976.1
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
The most common symptom of Lyme disease is redness of the skin at the site of the bite.
Other symptoms include:
Muscle and joint pain
The first symptoms usually occur 3 to 30 days after being bitten by an infected tick.
Tick bites are usually painless and often go unnoticed. For this reason, you should watch for symptoms if you have been in a high-risk area. The earlier the disease is detected and treated, the lower the risk of developing complications.
Are there any treatments for Lyme disease?
If you are bitten by a tick in an area where there is a high risk of contracting the disease, you may receive preventive treatment with antibiotics depending on your situation. When detected and treated promptly, the disease may disappear completely.
Is Lyme disease contagious?
Lyme disease is not contagious. It is transmitted only by the bite of a tick carrying the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria.
6 tips to help prevent Lyme disease
Ticks live in forests, woodlands, tall grass, gardens, landscapes and fallen leaves. They don't fly or jump, but they wait for the right moment to cling to you as you walk by. Help protect yourself from ticks and Lyme disease with these tips:
1. Learn about areas considered to be high risk
If possible, avoid travelling to areas considered high risk. For information on the situation in each region of the country, visit the Government of Canada’s website.
2. Wear appropriate clothing during outdoor activities
Before any outdoor activity:
Wear light-colored clothing. If a tick decides to cling on, you will see it more easily.
Wear closed shoes and long clothes. By covering as much of your body as possible, you limit the risk of being bitten by a tick. If you decide to wear shorts or a short-sleeved shirt, remember to apply insect repellent to exposed areas.
3. Don't leave any "openings" for a tick to get through
Tuck your shirt into your pants and the bottom of your pants into your socks or boots. The idea is to leave no entry point through which a tick could sneak in and get to its favorite places: armpits, groin, lower back, lower buttocks, back of the knees, navel, etc.
Don't forget to wear a hat, and choose one that covers your hair well. Ticks also like to cling to hair!
4. Do a thorough inspection when you get home
Inspect every part of your body as soon as you get home. As mentioned above, ticks are often found in places that are hard to see. Don't hesitate to ask someone to help you.
Don't forget your pet. Pets, especially dogs, are not immune to Lyme disease. Inspect your dog to make sure there are no ticks attached to it. If you find any, remove them and contact a veterinarian.
5. Put your clothes in the dryer
Put your clothes in the dryer on high temperature for 10 minutes. The temperature of the dryer will kill any ticks that may have hidden in your clothes.
6. Take a shower as soon as possible
Take a shower as soon as you get home. This will remove any ticks that are not yet firmly attached to your skin. Infected blacklegged ticks must remain attached for at least 24 hours to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.2 The sooner you get rid of the tick, the lower your risk of getting Lyme disease.
Get outside this spring and summer
By taking the right precautions, it’s possible to safely enjoy nature walks and hikes and avoid Lyme disease. And getting outside has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health.3
Looking for ideas of things to do? Don't forget to download our Summer Guide to find out about activities you can do alone or with your family.
Yale School of Medicine (August 28, 2017). Ancient History of Lyme Disease in North America Revealed with Bacterial Genomes. Retrieved March 28, 2022, from https://medicine.yale.edu/news-article/ancient-history-of-lyme-disease-in-north-america-revealed-with-bacterial-genomes/#:~:text=A%20team%20of%20researchers%20led,before%20the%20arrival%20of%20humans.
Government of Canada. Lyme disease: Prevention and risks. Retrieved March 28, 2022, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/lyme-disease/prevention-lyme-disease.html.
Bratman, G. N., Daily, G. C., Levy, B. J., & Gross, J. J. (2015, March 3). The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning. Retrieved March 17, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0169204615000286