Information on Ticks and Lyme Disease

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Ticks and Lyme Disease: Protect Yourself

 

fingertickFrom right to left: An engorged deer tick, an adult before attaching to the skin, an engorged nymph (young tick), a nymph before it has attached. Both adults and nymphs can transmit Lyme disease. Photograph courtesy of Frederick Dubs, RBP, Johns Hopkins University

palmtick

Relative size of a blacklegged tick nymph.

dimetick

Unfed, partially fed and fully engorged nymphs of the blacklegged tick. Note the change in size and colour.

There are six known areas in Nova Scotia where Lyme disease bacteria is present in ticks. They include areas of Lunenburg, Shelburne, Queens, Yarmouth and Pictou counties, and Halifax Regional Municipality. However, ticks could be anywhere and it is best to take precautions whenever working or playing outdoors.

Check out the province's interactive map for more information about these areas.

 

What Ticks Look Like

 

There are 16 different kinds of ticks in Nova Scotia, but only two types frequently bite people: dog ticks and blacklegged ticks.

Blacklegged ticks, or deer ticks, can carry the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, that cause  Lyme disease. There have been 329 confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease in Nova Scotia since 2002.

Blacklegged ticks are very small (smaller than dog ticks), and their looks change during  their life cycle.

The larvae and nymphs (baby and teenager stage ticks) are roughly the size of a poppy seed or sesame seed when fed.    

 

Don't Let Their Small Size Fool You

 

A small blacklegged tick might at first look like a harmless freckle, skin tag or a bit of dirt. But even small ticks, like these, can infect you with Lyme disease.

Adult ticks are much larger than larvae and nymphs, and the female is reddish orange in colour when unfed. Females grow to the size of a small grape as they engorge on blood and darken in colour during the feeding process.

Unlike adult dog ticks, blacklegged ticks do not have white markings on their backs. And dog ticks are typically larger than blacklegged ticks.

Like most types of ticks, the bite of a blacklegged tick is usually painless, so it's  easy not to feel them biting.

It may be difficult to tell the difference between a dog tick and a blacklegged tick.

 

Do A Thorough Tick Check

 

If you have spent time outdoors, it is important to carefully check your skin and clothing when you get home. Pay special attention to pets or small children who may have wandered into suitable tick habitat, like wooded or grassy areas.

Tick checks also help to prevent Lyme disease. Removing ticks as soon as possible can prevent or reduce the risk of infection, since blacklegged ticks can only transmit the bacterial infection after they have been attached to the skin for at least 24 hours.

Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. The earliest and most common symptom of Lyme disease is a bull's-eye rash at the site of the bite. Other symptoms include fever, fatigue, muscle aches and headaches.

If untreated, more serious illnesses can occur, including facial palsy which is a weakening of facial muscles, and heart or chronic joint problems. These complications can also be treated with antibiotics.

 

Easy ways to prevent or reduce contact with ticks:

 

  • wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks so ticks are more visible, and enclosed shoes while working or playing outside or hiking in the woods
  • pull socks up over pant legs and tuck in shirts
  • spray clothing and exposed skin with an insect repellant containing DEET or Icaridin
  • check clothing and exposed skin for ticks after working or playing outside in the bushes or tall grass, and remove any ticks attached to the skin
  • when possible, take a bath or shower within two hours of coming indoors. This makes it easier to find ticks.
  • keep grass well cut to minimize suitable habitat for ticks on your property

 

Additional Resources and Information

 

Websites

Get Tick'd Off

Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness

Public Health Agency of Canada

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA)

 

Brochures

Protect Yourself Photo

Enjoy the outdoors safely. Lyme disease: Protect yourself from tick bites

(Nova Scotia Government)

Landscaping Photo

Landscaping Measures for Tick Management

(Halifax Regional Municipality)

How to Remove Tick Photo.jpg

How to Remove a Tick

(SSH)

 For printed posters and brochures call Public Health at 543-0850.

 

Videos

Images Sources

Public Health Agency of Canada

CDC - Tick Management Handbook

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