American Dog Tick Blacklegged Tick (Deer Tick)
As the weather gets warmer after a long winter many of us choose to get out into nature and explore the vast incredible natural places across Canada. With this exploration comes some risks such as tick-borne illness spread from infected ticks. This resource is compiled for the most recent evidence-based information on tick borne illness, prevention, and treatment in Canada. Always consult a doctor if you feel you may have contracted a tick borne illness at the earliest opportunity to ensure the best treatment options can be provided.
Tick Prevalence across Canada
Ticks can be found across Canada. They tend stay in moist shaded areas such as overgrown grassy and leafy areas. Ticks are most active in possibly spreading lyme disease in the spring and early summer.
Most lyme disease infections are spread by immature ticks called nymphs that are roughly the size of a poppy side while the adult ticks are about the size of a sesame seed.
Ticks pick up the lyme disease from infected birds and rodents and then spread to humans through the bites.
Blacklegged tick sizes
For the lyme disease to spread to humans the tick must generally attach and feed on a human for at least 24 hours. Blacklegged ticks also known as deer ticks are the ticks in Canada known to carry lyme disease. Canada also has the American dog tick which are not known for carrying lyme disease but can carry other diseases such as rocky mountain spotted fever.
Engorged blacklegged tick
Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. Ticks become infected with the lyme disease from feeding on infected animals such as rodents and birds. Ticks infected with the lyme disease can spread the lyme to humans through embedded bites lasting longer than 24 hours.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease:
A rash appearing as a red spreading area that may clear up in the middle appearing like a bullseye. The rash tends to expand slowly over days and can be as large as 12” or 30cm across and is generally not painful or itchy. This rash usually presents 3-30 days after the tick bite.
Flu like symptoms such as fever, chills, body aches, fatigue (extreme tiredness) and a headache may also present 3-30 days after the tick bite.
If lyme disease is untreated further symptoms may present the following weeks to months and last for years such as:
- Joint pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rash across body
- Neurological problems
- Heart problems
- Liver inflammation (hepatitis)
- Sever fatigue (tiredness)
Treatment for Lyme Disease:
If you find a tick that has been embedded in you for at least 24 hours visit a doctor for treatment options. Lyme disease is generally effectively treated with a 2-4 week course of antibiotics. You can bring the tick with you if you have it in a plastic container for identification (laboratory testing of the tick is not used for the treatment of Lyme disease but is used to map lyme disease areas).
Rocky mountain spotted fever:
Spread by American dog tick, rocky mountain spotted fever is a disease caused by the bacteria Rickettsia rickettsia.The tick usually must be attached to the human for at least 4 hours to spread the disease.
Sudden onset of fever that can last 2-3 weeks, rash starting on wrists and ankles, headache, muscle pain, chills, confusion, nausea vomiting and diarrhea
Symptoms usually start 2-14 days after the bite.
Can be effectively treated with antibiotics.
Prevention of tick bites:
Avoid shady moist areas such as leafy wooded grounds, or overgrown grassy areas in the spring and early summer when nymph ticks feed most. Adult ticks can also spread lyme disease and are most active in the fall.
If you are traveling into tick prone areas preventative measures will assist in preventing tick bites and the spread of lyme disease:
Wearing light coloured clothing makes it easier to see ticks on you
- Using an insect repellent such as DEET (30%) or Icaridin.
Perform daily tick checks on your self and partners especially dark warm moist areas such as armpits, groin and common areas for tick exposure, hair line, neck, waist, wrists, and sock lines.
Shower or bathe as soon as possible after exploring in tick prone areas.
Put dry outdoor clothes in dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill remaining ticks
For damp clothes wash in hot water and tumble dry on low heat for 90 min or high heat for 60 min.
Safe Removal of a Tick:
Ticks removal should be controlled and ideally remove the entirety of the tick including the mouth parts as one piece. The best way to remove the tick is to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible with fine point tweezers or a tick tool and pull the tick straight up with smooth and consistent force.
Tick Collection and Identification:
Ticks can be sent away to a lab for surveillance purposes to track lyme disease prevalence across Canada. This can be sent by your doctor or a walk in clinic. See form below that you could print and bring with you to the doctors office in Ontario.
Collect the tick in a plastic rigid container and bring with you to the doctor. The doctor may assess the tick to determine the type of tick and guide their treatment decision.
You can submit a picture of the tick you have found for identification online at etick.ca. This is a free service and is used to identify tick prevalence across Canada. This process does not assist in the diagnosis and treatment of tick borne illness and is only used to map tick locations across Canada.
Below is a list if the most up to date evidence based resources for Ticks and tick related diseases in Canada, feel free to check them out for further information.