As Canadians and Americans send their children to camp or head out for annual camping trips, local public notices flood the airwaves — or inboxes — with warnings about all manner of insects and the diseases they transmit. One of the most debilitating of these is Lyme disease, which is caused by the bite from infected blacklegged ticks. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, not all ticks are infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, but the numbers are increasing and their range is spreading. Before all of you would-be campers and outdoorsmen run for cover to sanitized air-conditioned shopping centres, take a few minutes to learn the facts and then take preventative measures to ensure the summer camping season goes off without a bite.
What To Look For And Prevention:
- Ticks are small, measuring between 1-5 millimeters, and range in colour from reddish-orange to brown and black.
- They live in overgrown areas between forests and open spaces and are most common in Ontario along the north shores of the Great Lakes, along the southern areas of British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, and the Atlantic Provinces, as well as northeastern and upper midwestern United States.
- Wear closed toe shoes and long pants when hiking with socks pulled over the pant legs.
- Light coloured clothing helps for spotting ticks.
- Wear an insect repellent that contains DEET or Icaridin.
- Shower or bathe within two hours to wash away any loose ticks.
- Do a body check of children, pets, and yourself after a hike.
How To Know You’ve Been Bitten & What To Do
- If the tick has fallen off you might not realize you’ve been bitten since tick bites are almost painless.
- If you find a tick remove it using tweezers within 24-36 hours. Grasp it as close to its head as possible with the tweezers.
- Wash the bite area or disinfect it with alcohol or hand sanitizer.
- A rash or red spot may develop around the site of the bite. If Lyme disease is present this can become a large red rash.
Not everyone who is bitten by an infected tick experiences symptoms of Lyme disease, and these often don’t present for several weeks following exposure. Symptoms can range from fatigue, headaches, skin lesions, and swollen lymph nodes, among others. Contact a health provider immediately if you experience these symptoms following a bite. If left untreated Lyme disease can cause a range of health issues affecting the skin, joints, and nervous system. Early diagnosis is essential to successful treatment, which is typically a round of antibiotics.
This may all seem gruesome — and frankly, gross — but following the preventative tips listed here will greatly minimize any risks, even for campers heading into the deep woods. There are also tick repellents available for pets that will prevent Kujo from bringing home unwanted pests when he’s been chasing squirrels.
So…now that we’re all scratching and itchy and checking under hairs and flaps, let’s go camping! But remember to wear long pants and bug repellent.