The ticks that carry Lyme disease are about the size of a poppy seed and look a whole lot like a freckle. In other words they’re hard to locate, but finding them fast is key to prevention.
“If you catch it early and remove it properly you greatly reduce your risk of contracting the disease,” says Jim Wilson, of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation. “And if you do get Lyme disease, early diagnosis and treatment is key.”
He recommends anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors, especially in long grass or shrubby forests, should be especially alert.
• Wear long, light-coloured clothing and tuck your pants into your socks.
• Apply insect repellent with DEET.
• Keep an eye on your companions, looking for little black dots that move.
• Strip when you get home and look all over for them.
• Shower right away.
“Taking the tick out properly is so important,” Wilson says. “It’s impossible to pull it out with fingers.”
Instead, grab the tick from its head, using fine pointed tweezers, and gently pull straight out of the skin. Avoid squeezing the body. Wash the area with soap and water and apply an antiseptic medication. If you live in southern Ontario, southern BC and parts of Nova Scotia known to be endemic for Lyme, don’t wait for symptoms; ask for an antibiotic treatment from your doctor.
Even if you don’t find a tick, always stay alert for symptoms, like any kind of rash, especially in the shape of a bull’s-eye, unexpected flu-like symptoms, lack of energy or other sudden neurological changes. If you notice any of them, go to your doctor right away.