Read here for prevention and treatment information
This year, as part of your preparations for summer adventures, make sure your Group includes a review of tick bite prevention, and takes the time to discuss Lyme disease. Ticks are a serious issue! Since we spend so much time outdoors on our adventures, there’s a good chance that we will be in areas where ticks live. Ticks can be found all across Canada, and their populations are becoming increasingly infected with bacteria called Borellia bergdorferi, which is what causes Lyme disease. And the ticks that can carry the disease are tiny — about the size of a poppy seed!
Here are a few tips that will keep you bite-free this summer:
- Wear boots so that you can tuck your pants into them. This will prevent ticks from climbing up your legs. For added protection you can spray whatever footwear you’re wearing with a 0.5% permethrin insecticide once a month.
- Spritz your clothes with the same permethrin spray. Remember though, that these clothes should be laundered separately — the spray can come off in the wash and mix with other clothing and you don’t want it on your everyday clothes, especially your underwear!
- Use a 20 to 30 percent DEET repellant on exposed skin. Look for one that has an EPA registration number, which means that there is information available on its effectiveness against ticks.
- Once you are home from your adventure, make sure that you wash the clothes you took with you in hot water, and then tumble dry on high heat for 60 minutes. The heat will kill any ticks that happen to be hanging out on your clothing. Don’t just throw your clothes into the hamper as any ticks on them could potentially cause problems for you or others in your household later.
Ticks especially enjoy grassy wooded areas and shorelines, so be extra cautious when taking your Group on a summer hike or a canoe trip.
If you are bitten by a tick, don’t panic! Not all ticks carry Lyme disease and it can take up to 36 hours for any bacterial infection to transfer. However, you will want to deal with the situation as quickly as possible. Here are the steps you need to know in order to remove them:
- Pointed Tweezers: You’ll want to have a pair of these in your kit. Household tweezers (which have flat ends) are less effective because ticks are tiny, and there are increased chances of tearing the tick.
- Disinfect the Area: Use rubbing alcohol to disinfect the tick-bite.
- Grab the Tick: Using a pointed tweezer, you should be able to grab the tick’s head or grab it directly above the head.
- Pull Out Tick: Once you’ve firmly grabbed the tick’s head with the tweezers, pull the tick straight out with a slow steady motion. Note that you should not be concerned if the head breaks off and remains attached to the skin, as disease transmission is impossible without the tick’s body.
- Disinfect Again: Once the tick is removed, disinfect the area again using rubbing alcohol.
Don’t buy into the myth that ticks can only be found in rural parts of Canada. You may even encounter them while on your urban Scouting adventures in areas such as parks and local greenspace.
TREATING LYME DISEASE
Early detection of Lyme Disease is important, but this can be tricky because symptoms can sometimes take weeks or even months to appear. So if you think you may have been exposed to the bacteria through a tick bite, or you experience symptoms, you should seek medical attention right away. Here are symptoms you should pay attention to:
- Numbness in face or limbs
- Jaw Pain
- Burning Sensations
- Light sensitivity
- Red eyes
- Muscle aches
- Neck stiffness
- Difficulty breathing or getting air
- Muscle twitching
- Bone or joint pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
If you are experiencing a combination of these symptoms after exposure to ticks-bites, seek medical attention immediately! Early stage Lyme Disease can be treated with antibiotics, and the longer you wait to seek treatment, the harder it is to treat.
As I’m sure you’ve heard, tick populations this year are on the rise, and with that comes the rise in cases of Lyme Disease. It is important to remember that not every tick bite that takes place will result in a case Lyme Disease, but it is equally important to take precautions against ticks whenever possible. Continue to educate your Group and review tick and tick removal practices to help keep your adventures safe and fun.
As we always say, “Be Prepared.”