Lyme Disease – What you need to know

With the weather really warming up it’s a great time to get outdoors and soak up the many benefits of spending time in nature.  However, one thing that we want to be cautious about is ticks and tick-borne disease. I recently went on a two day hiking and camping trip with my husband and dog and was shocked to find a tick on my dog on the drive home. 

What is Lyme Disease?

Lime Disease is caused by a parasite borrelia burgdorferi that is spread to humans by ticks.  The tick must be attached to the skin for many hours (typically 24-36) in order for the parasite to be transferred. 

What are the symptoms?

When someone is infected they may experience fevers and chills, fatigue, headaches or a bull’s eye rash.  The long term effects if left untreated many include any of these symptoms as well as muscle and joint pain, difficulty concentrating and sleep disturbances. 

What to do if you are bitten by a tick?

If you have been bitten by a tick remove it carefully using tweezers (click here for more details on how to do this) and keep it – bring it to your family doctor in order to test if the tick was infected with the parasite.  Antibiotic treatment may be prescribed to prevent infection. 

How can I minimize the risk?

When you are spending time outdoors try to wear close-toed shoes and socks, light coloured clothing (it makes the brown ticks easier to spot) and perform a “tick-check” after you return.  This involves running your hands over your skin to check for any ticks that may have attached so that they can be promptly removed.  Also, check any pets as they are much more likely to come in contact with ticks.  Be cautious of areas that are known to contain tick populations including Kingston and more recently the east end of Toronto (click here for a more complete list). 

Does this mean I shouldn’t spend time outdoors?

Absolutely not! We know that spending time in nature decreases stress, improves mood and boost immune function (click here to read more!) Get out doors and enjoy these great benefits but take precautions to make sure that you stay safe.